CD Reviews 

Live at the Mauch Chunk Opera House 

This disc offers an aural snapshot of the growth of the Winnipeg roots trio just before they went into hibernation at the end of last summer. This disc offers an aural snapshot of the growth of the Winnipeg roots trio just before they went into hibernation at the end of last summer.

Nine of the 14 tracks, recorded in concert in small-town Pennsylvania, have not appeared on either of the Jennys’ two previous studio albums. Most notable are the muscular arrangement of the traditional Celtic tune Bold Riley, with Ruth Moody’s wistful soprano as the lead vocal, and mezzo Nicky Mehta’s haunting interpretation of the Jane Siberry tune Calling All Angels.

New member, Brooklyn-based Heather Masse (who replaced Annabelle Chvostek in 2007), is represented with two self-penned tunes and applies her confident alto to the lead in a couple of others.

The Jennys give their angelic harmonies full flight on covers of Emmylou Harris’s Deeper Well, Gillian Welch’s One More Dollar, even Gershwin’s Summertime and the old spiritual Motherless Child. Former Winnipegger Jeremy Penner’s fiddle and mandolin accompaniment adds depth and richness throughout.

If there’s a weakness, it’s the sense of preciousness and over-calculation the Jennys have always displayed, but this will not bother their devoted fan base. They are expected to be back in the saddle in early 2010, possibly with Mehta’s newest production, twin boys, in tow.

4 out of 5 stars