CD Reviews 

Live at the Mauch Chunk Opera House 

Founding members of the Wailin’ Jennys, Nicky Mehta and Ruth Moody along with relative newcomer Heather Masse and fiddler Jeremy Penner recorded this album live at a show at the Mauch Chunk Opera House in Jim Thorpe, PA. Founding members of the Wailin’ Jennys, Nicky Mehta and Ruth Moody along with relative newcomer Heather Masse and fiddler Jeremy Penner recorded this album live at a show at the Mauch Chunk Opera House in Jim Thorpe, PA. While there are many fine single-show live albums, this one is a truly an astonishing accomplishment because of the Wailin’ Jennys’ style of music. Their hallmark is flawless two and three part harmonies with simple acoustic arrangements that leave nothing to hide behind. Penner’s fiddling is so good that it serves as the fourth voice of the group. Pretty close on the singing and playing (upright bass, guitar, harmonica, banjo, accordion, mandolin, violin etc.) would have sounded quite nice, but every last note is perfect, the acoustics are magical and the recording is impeccable. Their choice of material also reveals much of what The Wailin’ Jennys are all about. They start with “Deeper Well,” a David Olney song that has already been covered memorably by Emmylou Harris. This is followed by “Summertime.” Later in the album they cover songs by Gillean Welch and Huddie Ledbetter and arrangements of traditional songs “Bold Riley” and “Motherless Child.” They even take a turn at Jane Siberry’s idiosyncratic “Calling All Angels.” All of these songs have distinct melodies and definitive versions, yet this group adds significantly to the way you will hereafter remember them. They do not take the songs far from the way you have heard them before, but they explore them harmonically and emotionally and play them to their considerable strengths. Although you will first notice the beautiful blend of the voices, the sound is deepened to at least four and five part harmonies by the instruments they play. Their arrangement of “Bold Riley” mixes the voices together with accordion and fiddle to make a truly elegant multi-timbre choir. Their own songs are as strong and memorable as the songs they cover. The only way this could be better is if I was at the show! An essential, classic recording. http://www.mmreview.com/