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Weekend will be Wailin’
Heather Masse, left, Ruth Moody and Nicky Mehta play their first gig in the city tonight. Ruth Moody is pretty sure the Wailin’ Jennys are playing London for the first time tonight — and that’s not the only reason the gig might make history. Heather Masse, left, Ruth Moody and Nicky Mehta play their first gig in the city tonight. Ruth Moody is pretty sure the Wailin’ Jennys are playing London for the first time tonight — and that’s not the only reason the gig might make history.
"We’re recording it," Moody says of the Canadian roots music stars’ concert tonight at Aeolian Hall at 8 p.m. "We’re not sure exactly for what purposes yet . . . we’re starting to gather material for a live record."
The Wailin’ Jennys are just one attraction on a busy weekend in London and we’re offering a selected guide to some of the other ones, including rock band Brown Brigade and a jazz concert by London musicians.
Moody and her fellow singing and songwriting Jennys, Nicky Mehta and Heather Masse, are touring to support a pretty good studio record, the Juno-nominated Firecracker (Jericho Beach/Festival). Since Firecracker, Annabelle Chvostek has been replaced by Masse.
"We have a new Jenny," Moody says of Masse, who lived for many years in Maine so "she’s practically Canadian." Masse now lives in Brooklyn. She joined the Jennys in March.
"We have a boy Jenny," Moody says of fiddler Jeremy Penner, who plays on a track or two on Firecracker. Moody and Penner were once bandmates in Winnipeg roots band Scruj MacDuhk.
Moody, Penner and their MacDuhk pals are fondly remembered by Sunfest organizers. Back in the day, the MacDuhk gang partied in Quebec into the wee hours and then battled traffic all the way from Montreal just so they could help open the 2000 edition of the world-beat fest at Victoria Park with a Louis Riel reel.
After MacDuhk scrujed off in 2001, Moody moved on. She and Mehta became co-founders of the Wailin’ Jennys, a roots trio who kicked butt with sharp, sensitive songs and attitude. A former Jenny, Cara Luft, was just in London on a solo gig.
These days, Masse — who has a background in bluegrass and jazz — has become the Jennys’ first bass player. Mehta sometimes plays drums. "It’s more of a textural thing," Moody says of the Jennys’ drums ‘n’ bass moves.
"It’s the same concept and mission statement," she says of all the changes since Firecracker.
Still the same for "the Wailin’ Jennys 3.0" — as fans are calling the new lineup — is the group’s place in Garrison Keillor’s public radio show A Prairie Home Companion. The Wailin’ Jennys have played the U.S. show seven times already and have a couple of 2008 dates tuned in.
"As Canadians, we didn’t realize the extent to which that show reaches people down there," Moody says of Companion. "Garrison Keillor is such an interesting and brilliant person."
The Jennys are adjusting to the fame of keeping company with Companion. "We met Bonnie Raitt on there. We met Meryl Streep. They’re a couple of big names," Moody says, joking about the Keillor connection.
Tonight, the Wailin’ Jennys meet their London fans. Fine London bluegrass-minded band the Goin’ Concern opens tonight’s concert. "I think this will be the Jennys’ first time in London," Moody says. Who’s gonna argue?
The Wailin’ wait is almost over.