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Album review: “Bright Morning Stars”
The Washington Post
By Geoffrey Hines
It’s always tricky to assemble a vocal harmony group from singer-songwriters. The knack that makes the harmonies work — the ability to blend selflessly — often conflicts with the essential element of songwriting — the ability to offer a strikingly individual perspective.
The three women in the Wailin’ Jennys have solved this by writing songs that offer an original vision on universal themes. And it’s at that universal level that their harmonies work on their new album, “Bright Morning Stars.”
The dozen original songs — four apiece by Ruth Moody, Heather Masse and Nicky Mehta — are not tethered to the urban world but dwell on such timeless rural imagery as frogs, snow, stars and the moon. These images never lapse into mere sentimentality but are the occasion for meditations on loss and recovery. The three-part harmonies reach for optimism but never lose their undercurrent of melancholy.
The one cover is the title track, a gospel hymn that grasps for optimism in a similar fashion, and the a cappella vocals blend hurt and hope with mesmerizing fullness. On the remake of “Bird Song,” from Masse’s 2008 solo album, that fullness gives the song a new dimension. Such camaraderie is necessary against life’s blows, as Moody implies on her song “Storm Comin’, ”: “Don’t run from the comin’ storm / ’cause you can’t keep a storm from comin’. ”