FIFTEEN - THE WAILIN' JENNYS
LCM ALBUM OF THE WEEK
- Release Date: 3rd November, 2017
- Artist: The Wailin' Jennys
- Genre: Folk, Americana
- Record Label: True North Records
- Tracks: 9
- Website: http://www.thewailinjennys.com/
- Review By: Gary Smith (LCM)
The Wailin’ Jennys beautiful new album 'Fifteen' is a anniversary celebration of fifteen years of the trio, comprising singer-songwriters Nicky Mehta, Ruth Moody and Heather Masse. Trademark exquisitely crafted vocal harmonies are the order of the day, as this very talented Canadian folk trio release their first album since 'Bright Morning Stars' in 2011. It's a fantastic collection of covers re-arranged and sprinkled with their unique magic. The album features songs made famous by Tom Petty, Emmylou Harris, Paul Simon, Dolly Parton, Hank Williams, Patty Griffin, Jane Siberry and Warren Zevon
The album tells stories of loss, loneliness and despair but it's not depressing. Quite the opposite it offers hope and consolation. It's stunning, very classy and simply heavenly. Fifteen is full of the wow! factor and a very fitting anniversary release for this superb trio.
The album opens with a wonderful a cappella version of the 'Old Churchyard', a traditional spiritual folk ballad which sets the mood for the album, heartfelt songs with pure harmonies and minimal sympathetic instrumentation, consisting mainly just guitar, banjo, fiddle and bass on a few songs.
One of the albums standouts is their beautiful version of the title track of Tom Petty's 1994 album 'Wildflowers'. Soaring sweet harmonies over banjo, acoustic guitar and fiddle. It serves as a fitting tribute to Tom and his music. Marvellous.
'The Valley' originally written by Canadian singer-songwriter Jane Siberry, is just such a gorgeous song. This new version is almost six minutes of exquisite masterclass songwriting coupled with hypnotic angelic vocals. This is music to get totally lost in. The 'Light Of The Clear Blue Morning' by US Country legend Dolly's Parton, is the next song to have the Jennys magic applied to it. Again recorded as a pure a capella, this is simply stunning. 'Love Me Like A Rock' written by Paul Simon has sumptuous harmonies accompanied only by foot stomping, hand clapping and finger snapping. The song has a real spiritual quality. Paul's Simon's originally version features background vocals from the Dixie Hummingbirds, a Southern black gospel group. “When I was a little girl....and the Devil would call my name I’d say ‘now who do. Who do you think you’re fooling?’”
'Boulder to Birmingham' is a track from the 1975 album 'Pieces of the Sky 'by Emmylou Harris. The song was written by Emmylou and Bill Danoff. It has served as something of a signature tune for the her and recounts her feelings of grief in the years following the death of country rock star and mentor Gram Parsons. The song is famous its chorus "I would rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham. I would hold my life in his saving grace. I would walk all the way from Boulder to Birmingham. If I thought I could see, I could see your face." Another heartfelt and perfectly pitched cover from the Jennys.
There are some wonderfully chosen covers and Patty Griffin's song 'Not Alone' with it's cello drone like backing is very power and moving. "She sees him laying in the bed alone tonight. The only thing a touching him is a crack of light. Pieces of her hair are wrapped around and 'round his fingers and he reaches for her side, for any sign of her that lingers. One of them bullets went straight for the jugular vein. There were people running a flash of light. Then everything changed. Nothing really matters in the end you know. All the worry is over. Don't be afraid for me my friend, one day we all fall down forever. The wedding date was June just like any other bride
She loved him like no one before, it was good to be alive. But sometimes that can slip away as fast as any fingers through your hands
So you let time forgive the past and go and make some other plans."
Warren Zevon's heartfelt 'Keep Me In Your Heart' a stunning song. The final one that he wrote and recorded while fighting mesothelioma (a form of terminal lung cancer). This was also the only song on Warren's final album The Wind, that he wrote entirely after learning of his terminal illness. Warren was such a force of nature, it’s very difficult to do this song real justice. The Jennys arrangement is heavenly with their sympathetic voices adding to the feel and gravitas. Fittingly the last song on the album is another super a capella this time Hank William's 'Weary Blues From Waitin'. It was originally released as a posthumous single on MGM Records in 1953. "Through tears I watch young lovers, as they go strolling by. For all the things that might have been. God forgive me, if I cry."