Artist: The Wailin’ Jennys
Label: Red House Records
Release Date: 10.27.17
In the dark stillness of their a cappella version of the traditional hymn “Old Churchyard” which opens The Wailin’ Jennys’ new album Fifteen, the rapturous harmonies of Nicky Mehta, Ruth Moody and Heather Masse ring out. Barren, save for the faint whisper of distant viola, the atmosphere—empty and lonely—suits them fine, their sweet, polished vocals softly cutting through the clear solemnity.
Welcome back, Wailin’ Jennys. It’s been too long since the three of you have graced us with your presence. Six years after the release of the breathtaking Bright Morning Stars, the trio returns with their fourth studio LP of graceful, lovingly rendered Americana. All nine songs are covers of some of their favorite songs, as they gently caress Emmylou Harris’ “Boulder to Birmingham” and intimately crawl inside Warren Zevon’s “Keep Me in Your Heart” and weep at its sad beauty.
If the chill of “Old Churchyard” brings shivers, the Wailin’ Jennys’ wistful version of Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers,” a light, lovely tangle of rustic bluegrass banjo and strings, warms with a soft incandescence. It takes on more profound significance in the wake of Petty’s recent death. Considering the ugly state of the country’s politics, so does their stunning a cappella remake of Dolly Parton’s optimistic “Light of a Clear Blue Morning,” which soars as their delicate reimagining of Patty Griffin’s “Not Alone” soothes.
They named the record Fifteen in celebration of their 15 years together. Time hasn’t ravaged their voices at all. They still sound as angelic as ever.