It’s almost too easy to overlook The Wailin’ Jennys. Everyone wants to find the new buzz band in the hottest made up genre, and as a result, we let timeless melodies and stop-you-in-your-tracks vocal work slip through our fingers like handfuls of sand. With seemingly limitless talent, a musical appreciation that can make a music critic blush and a style as warm as a summer breeze, you just kind of assume the Jennys have been around forever, and always will be.
That’s why it’s hard to believe it’s been almost 6 years since they’ve put out a record. Admittedly, even if they only played the occassional live show, the way the band charms audiences with their beautiful performances (for those not fortunate enough to see them yet, do yourself a frickin service and pick up their lovely live record today) the chance to hear them sing would be noteworthy. The Jennys bring crowded rooms to a hush with hearfelt a capellas and challenge the devil himself with moving gospel songs and if they never set foot in the studio again, they’ve long since earned a spot in the rich tradition of Canadian roots/bluegrass music.
But then you hear the transition The Wailin’ Jennys make on Bright Morning Stars; a fuller, more layered sound and a new lineup (the first WJ studio experience for New Yawk based upright bassist/song writer Heather Masse). Backed by a collection of some of the finest session musicians in Canada, The Jennys experiment with jazzier arrangements, country soul and surprisingly poppy singalongs. Somehow, the band feels completely new even though the instruments, talent and approach remains the same. The highlights are countless; perfect vocal interplay, the tasteful horns that dot the open soundscape on “Across the Sea”, the delightful gospel gem Ruth’s “Storm Comin'”, and the grit of “What Has Been Done” come to mind, but really each and every song on the record holds up nicely and showcases each woman’s various strengths.
I could go on and on but the songs speak for themselves. My advice; buy this record absorb every note and as you are engrossed in the vocal work the women display on the a capella title track (the only traditional number on the record), it will become evident that The Jennys are amongst our country’s brightest shining stars. We just need to start acknowledging it.