CD Reviews 

The Wailin’ Jennys – Firecracker 

Like three little birds singing softly and sweetly in the early morn, the harmony of the Wailin’ Jennys pleasantly rises from the speakers and greets the listener with a refreshing start to the day Like three little birds singing softly and sweetly in the early morn, the harmony of the Wailin’ Jennys pleasantly rises from the speakers and greets the listener with a refreshing start to the day. Produced by David Travers-Smith, this is the first disc to feature the alto stylings of Annabelle Chvostek, who replaced founding member Cara Luft in 2004. She contributes four songs, including the eerie disc opener “Devil’s Paintbrush Road,” which echoes an old-time Appalachian murder ballad. The plucking of Chvostek’s melodious mandolin steers this song, which originally appeared on Chvostek’s solo disc in a stripped down version of just voice and fiddle plucking. Here, it sounds fuller due to the added harmony of her new band-mates mezzo Nicky Mehta and soprano Ruth Moody, and the added instrumentation. Guitar whiz Kevin Breit (Norah Jones) adds another spark to the Jennys’ musical journey throughout. “Swallow,” “Apocalypse,” and “Long Time Traveler” are just three of the many harmonious highlights. Overall, Firecracker provides more than 50 minutes of pure musical bliss with nary a blemish.

Tell me about recording Firecracker? Chvostek: It was a really incredible process from arranging the songs together to working with David Travers-Smith, who is very intuitive and able to tune into the larger vision in an interesting and fun way.

What influences the band’s songwriting? My songwriting has taken many turns over the years and just hanging out with people playing old-time country stuff has really gotten into me. And Ruth has this wild encyclopedic knowledge of all things folk. At the same time, there is a real love of what is going on in contemporary songǃ_ Nicky has this whole Britpop influence in her stuff, so it all sorts of melds together.

Why do you think more and more people are being drawn to roots music? Maybe it is some kind of post-apocalyptic enjoyment of things that don’t require electricity. We can have a good time and play our mandolins and our banjos really loudly and sing at the top of our lungs. Who needs anything else? It is such an intimate kind of experience and it can be very enveloping and welcoming. These are crazy times in the world and maybe it’s something to do with that ǃ