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The backporch resurgence can’t solely be attributed to the success of O Brother, Where Art Thou? The backporch resurgence can’t solely be attributed to the success of O Brother, Where Art Thou?, even if "Long Time Traveller" from The Wailin’ Jennys new album, Firecracker, is a dead ringer for "Down in the River to Pray." Annabelle Chvostek, Nicky Mehta and Ruth Moody (the three individual Jennys) reach deep into the Southern heritage for inspiration, and come up with disquieting ditties such as "Apocalypse Lullaby" and "Starlight." A line from "Devil’s Paintbrush Road" sums up the mood: "If I lied and said all was well I might as well be dead."
This is a surprising turnaround. The Jennys’ first record, 40 Days, was feel-good, full of feminine charm and preoccupied with romance. The success of that record propelled the trio from Winnipeg, Canada, on a non-stop world tour. And there’s nothing like life on the road to show the mixed horrors and delights of the modern world.
Firecracker find The Wailin’ Jennys (tomorrow, The Main Stage, 8pm) in a strange state. If the songs describe a collapsing world, then their trademark close harmonies have never sounded more rapturous. On "Long Time Traveller" they sound like a chorus of Appalachian angels.
Could it be that traditional music, born out of hard times, has relevant things to say about the way we live today? The entire line-up of the 25th Warwick Folk Festival could be enlisted to give weight to the theory. Tim Ban Eyken (tonight, The Main Stage, 8pm), best known for his contribution to Waterson:Carthy, delivers a macabre "Babies in the Wood" on his fine album Stiffs, Lovers, Holymen, Thieves; the resonance to today’s headlines is uncomfortable. With the exception of the old reggae or bass ‘n’ drum rhythm (acoustis hip-hoppers Nizlopi play in the Market Squareon Sunday at 2pm), nothing much has changed in the past 200 years or so.