The Wailin’ Jennys – Bright Morning Stars
Folk Roots/Folk Branches – Canada
By Mike Regenstreif
Bright Morning Stars is the Winnipeg-based Wailin’ Jennys third full-length studio album and each of those albums has featured a slightly different line-up.
Their debut EP, The Wailin’ Jennys, and first full-length studio album, 40 Days, featured original members Nicky Mehta, Ruth Moody and Cara Luft.
Firecracker, the second full-length studio album, featured Nicky, Ruth and Annabelle Chvostek; while on the 2009 live album, Live at the Mauch Chunk Opera House, and, now, Bright Morning Stars, Nicky and Ruth are joined by American singer-songwriter Heather Masse.
As I noted in my review of Live at the Mauch Chunk Opera House, the Wailin’ Jennys have, with each personnel change, seemingly seamlessly adapted and evolved. There was something different, but consistently Jennyish, with each change. With the live album and several years of touring with Nicky and Ruth, Heather seems like a veteran member of the trio, hardly the new Jenny on the block.
The Wailin’ Jennys take an egalitarian approach to the album. Each contributes four original songs on which she sings lead with the other two supplying their sublime harmonies and they also offer a stunning version of the traditional hymn-like “Bright Morning Stars,” sung in glorious three-part harmony.
Highlights among Nicky’s songs include the opening track, “Swing Low Sail High,” at once both a confession to love’s shortcoming and a reaffirmation of love’s endurance, and “What Has Been Done,” a mysterious ballad, seemingly about a murder, or, perhaps, a suicide, that shows the influence of traditional Appalachian folksongs.
Ruth’s highlights include “Storm Comin’,” a metaphorical piece about being prepared for what life and love have to offer, and “Asleep At Last,” a quiet, beautiful love song.
Heather’s highlights include “Mona Louise,” partly a lullaby and partly a celebration of a new life, and “Cherry Blossom Love,” a haunting song that seems almost equally derived from both the folksong and jazz ballad traditions.
As I noted in the introduction, these songs are – mostly – quiet and subtle and reveal more each time they’re heard.