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Separated at Birth?
Songlines – UK
By Doug DeLoach
They’re not sisters, but The Wailin’ Jennys sound like they must have grown up singing under the same roof together. For the past decade or so, Nicky Mehta, Ruth Moody, and Heather Masse (who replaced Annabelle Chvostek in 2007) have carved out a niche as purveyors of a certain style of North American alt-roots music that evokes a contemplative solitude and breezy attitude. It might be described as ‘Canadiana.’
The 13 songs on Bright Morning Stars (only one of which, the title-track, is not an original composition) are engaging from a melodic standpoint thanks to a relative absence of clichés and easy resolutions. While winsome ballads about lovelorn lasses and sea shanties sung to wave-kissed sailors aren’t exactly mining unexplored veins, the sincerity in the Jennys’ three-part harmonies, the capable instrumentalism and refined intelligence illuminate the beauty that a good poet might resolve from the everyday landscape of life. Ethereal, delicate, dreamy and haunting are the words that spring to mind. That said, jazzy numbers like ‘Cherry Blossom Love’ evoke a very different type of contemplative mood: the kind you’d experience in a smoky lounge with a whiskey in one hand and a cigarette in the other.
Bright Morning Stars has been painstakingly engineered by Mark Howard and David Travers-Smith to rend every last angel’s whisper out of the trio. Younger fans of Alison Krauss and Rosie Stevens will get it, while their elders will reminisce about Jean Ritchie, the Armstrong Family (sisters Jenny and Rebecca) and other female heralds of yore.