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Bright Morning Stars – The Wailin’ Jennys
By James Christopher Monger
Since their 2001 inception in a Winnipeg guitar shop, the Wailin’ Jennys have been quietly and consistently crafting some of North America’s best modern roots music. Nicky Mehta, Ruth Moody, and Heather Masse, the latter of whom took over for Annabelle Chvostek in 2007, sing like siblings and play like seasoned veterans, resulting in a seamless, understated sound that feels both perennial and distinctly Canadian. Lonesome and surprisingly comforting, the group’s fourth studio album, Bright Morning Stars, offers up 13 meditations on love, life, and loss that fit right in with the trio’s penchant for melding traditional folk songs and sea shanteys with contemporary themes. It’s a quiet but powerful collection of snowbound balladry that may be too subtle and unassuming for 21st century attention spans, which is a large part of its charm. Comparisons to Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch are apt, but the Jennys’ ability to harmonize like the family acts of old sets them apart from many of their contemporaries. Part Watersons and part Fleetwood Mac, songs like the pop-driven “Swing Low Sail High,” the jazzy “Mona Louise,” the timeless sounding “Bird Song,” and the sparse, largely a cappella title cut, feel grounded and effortless, despite their competing genres.