CD Reviews 

Bright Morning Stars – The Wailin’ Jennys

By Cate Mitchell

When a band possesses such proven pedigree as The Wailin’ Jennys, a real weight of pressure is brought to bear on each new release. Will it live up to the quality of its predecessor? Will those wonderful voices still sparkle? Will the ladies deliver? Unsurprisingly, it’s pretty much a unanimous yes in response to all three. There is the expected mix of pared-down arrangements and more fully-realised numbers synonymous with the line-up. Of course, throughout proceedings the beautiful harmonies associated with the Jennys are foregrounded and, as usual, it is these that make the whole thing such a pleasure on the ear.

No amount of superlatives do justice to the sheer majesty of the opener, “Swing Low Sail High”. While it has one foot firmly planted in folk and roots, the other would be at home on myriad commercial country records. It’s radio-friendly and hummable but still, unmistakeably The Wailin’ Jennys.

The banjo on “Bird Song” gives it a timeless quality and it sits very comfortably with the hugely pleasant “Mona Louise” and the instantly familiar, flugelhorn-driven “Across the Sea”. The pace is picked up a little in the latter stages by the delightful swing of “Cherry Blossom Love”.

Those who have previously dismissed folk-roots music as a narrow genre discouraging of experimentation and frowning upon the ploughing of new ground would do well to listen to Bright Morning Stars. Ostensibly, the album has a stripped-down feel but there is a subtly superb mix of superior instrumental musicianship that draws the ear time after time. Incredible opener aside, choosing the most impacting track is a toss-up between the massively atmospheric “Storm Comin’” and the siren-like acapella of the title track.

Even at the points where the album lulls there is little discernable drop in quality. The odd clumsy rhyme creeps in, but overall the sheer quality of the material on offer here shines through. Bright Morning Stars is well-recorded, well-produced and will certainly be well-deserving of all the plaudits it will doubtless receive upon release. Sure, you could argue that this is not to everyone’s taste, but you’d have to say it would take a particularly cold heart not to be warmed by the sheer gorgeousness of the harmonies on offer here.