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The Wailin’ Jennys – Bright Morning Stars
www.netrhythms.com – UK
By Mike Davies
It’s been a long five years since the Canadian trio released Firecracker, since which time Anabelle Chvostek has left to be replaced by alto jazz singer Heather Masse, bringing the M quota up to three alongside founders soprano Ruth Moody and mezzo-soprano Nicky Mehta.
In good democratic fashion, all three have contributed four songs though, if they have individual styles these have been streamlined to fit seamlessly within the group’s sweet folk harmony style and you’d be hard pressed to identify who was responsible for what. Even the lyrics share themes of romantic yearning littered with natural world imagery.
Which is less a criticism and more a testament of how well they work together in the service of the common bond.
The title track, sung unaccompanied, is a traditional American folk tune and that’s pretty much the seam they mine throughout, opening with Swing Low Sail High and working their mellifluous way through the likes of bluegrass ballad Bird Song, revisited from Masse’s solo album with a new fiddle solo, Mehta’s lovely ukulele-accompanied, life’s dusk and dawn themed Away But Never Gone, and the old back porch crooning quality of Mona Louise.
They do tinker with things here and there, though. Across The Sea begins with Masse singing a capella before the others join in and acoustic guitar and warm flugel horn add their soft touches, What Has Been Done is bluesily atmospheric with electric slide and Storm Comin’ finds Moody in soulful gospel mode, the songs stripping back to a handclap rhythm midway while, nodding to Masse’s jazz training, Cherry Blossom Love is pure Andrews Sisters styled 40s retro.
Closing with the mandolin and trumpet-backed country-folk swayer The Last Goodbye, they don’t push any genre boundaries, but they can most certainly be relied upon to shine within them.