CD Reviews 

Live at the Mauch Chunk Opera House 

Along with Sarah Harmer, the Wailin’ Jennys sit at the mellow, tasteful end of the Canadian folk-roots scene. Ruth moody and Nicky Mehta write strong melodies and their soprano voices are clean and pure. Along with Sarah Harmer, the Wailin’ Jennys sit at the mellow, tasteful end of the Canadian folk-roots scene. Ruth moody and Nicky Mehta write strong melodies and their soprano voices are clean and pure.

This impeccable live set, recorded at the improbably named Mauch Chunk Opera House in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, is very much enhanced by new member Heather Masse, a Maine native whose alto adds warmth and depth to the trio’s sound.

Masse, who describes herself as the band’s token American, also wrote the road ballad “Driving,” one of the album’s sweetest moments.

Mehta is the most distinctive presence here and her aching balanced “Arlington” and “Begin” are highlights of the well-received studio albums 40 days (2004) and Firecracker (2006).

Multi-instrumentalist Moody contributes the gospel-inflected “Glory Bound” and shines on banjo, accordion and bodhran.

The covers here are well chosen, with David Olney’s grim “Deeper Well” buttressed by terse solos from guest violinist Jeremy Penner.

Glorious three-part harmonies lift an acapella reading of “Summertime” and the Leadbelly spiritual “Bring Me Lil Water Silvy,” while a slow and gentle version of Gillian Welch’s “One More Dollar” hits the spot.

There is nothing starkly original about these girls but there are no false notes and the singing is just sublime.

4 out of 5 stars