The Wailin’ Jennys – Bright Morning Stars
www.allgigs.co.uk – UK
By Paul Pledger
It’s not often you pop a CD in a player, sit back and become transformed to another place, but I certainly experienced that feeling with this, The Wailin’ Jennys third album – and what a little beauty it is too.
The source of their music lies in traditional country-roots, delivered effortlessly and harmoniously by three charming and photogenic brunettes in the shape of an alto (Heather Masse), a mezzo (Nicky Mehta) and a soprano (Ruth Moody).
All three prove how sickeningly talented they are by playing the occasional banjo, ukulele and guitar, as you do, although much of the musicianship comes courtesy of a crack band of Canadians, plus some deft knob-twiddling by co-producers Mark Howard and David Travers-Smith. If I told you that the former has previously sat in the chair for Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams, you’d assume this was similar territory – and you’d be right, sort of. Hell, the three of them even turn their hands at writing their own feckin’ songs!
The set opens with the runt of the litter, oddly enough – the almost jolly, almost bouncy opening pop-gambit of “Swing Low Sail High” seems at odds with the rest of the highly emotive and subtle nuances presented on the other languid lullabies, such as “Mona Louise” or “Bird Song”. It’s good, but far far better follows it, trust me.
I suggest that you leap for the CD player’s shuffle button to see what that can throw up instead. Ooh, here comes song number two, “All The Stars” – what a fabulous little song this is, you’d have to be a lamp-post not to feel a tiny bit tingly after hearing this. Don’t panic – there’s none of the usual ‘yee-hah schmaltz’ commonly associated with pop-country poppets like Leanne Rimes or Shania Twain – they don’t impress me much, but this album certainly does (see what I did there?).
To pick a highlight from this album would be an unjust act – it’s all very worthy, so let me try and offer some comparables. Musically there are elements of the aforementioned Harris and Williams, plus a smidgeon of Kate Rusby (there are elements of folk on here too – check out the title track or “Storm Comin'”) and even Christine McVie’s contribution to the Mac catalogue. Vocally, they sound like angels of course.
Possessing one of the most unflattering monikers since fairy-tales spawned the Brothers Grimm, The Wailin’ Jennys don’t wail, they soothe, they coo, they gently nuzzle into your neck and massage your mind with simple tales of love and yearning, without overkill and without icky sentiments designed for the nearest toilet-bowl. Note to festival organizers and venue promoters – go and get this lot to play for you as soon as possible!
It’s a well-worn cliché that has been printed before but, if you only buy one gorgeous harmony-roots album, sung and performed by three angelic voices this year, make it this one.