For folk trio the Wailin’ Jennys, perseverance has been the key to success.The Wailin’ Jennys don’t make it easy for music scribes; the trio’s fusion of three-part harmonies, Appalachian folk, Celtic, country-gospel, roots rock, alt-country, vocal pop and jazz sends writers scrambling for their thesauri.
“We’re all influenced by different styles of music,” explains founding member Ruth Moody, “so our music is infused with a variety of sounds.”
This month, the Jennys — composed of vocalists/multi-instrumentalists Moody, Nicky Mehta and Heather Masse — release their third full-length studio album, Bright Morning Stars (Red House Records, $15). It’s the group’s first to feature jazz-influenced Masse, who Moody says brings “a new dimension to the band.” And hopefully a more permanent one, as well; before the addition of Masse, the Jennys had been through several staffing changes since their founding in Winnipeg, Canada, in 2002, with the exits of original member Cara Luft and replacement Annabelle Chvostek, both of whom left to pursue solo careers.
“That’s one of the hazards of being a trio made up of singer-songwriters,” says Moody, who released a solo CD of her own last year titled The Garden.
But when Masse came onboard in 2007, it quickly became apparent that her soulful, low-end vocals were the missing layer in the band’s harmonic approach. Now, the trio hopes that Stars sees the same kind of success that their first two albums — 40 Days, which won a 2005 Juno Award, and 2006’s Firecracker, which remained on the Billboard bluegrass chart for 54 weeks — both enjoyed. But the Jennys have learned better than to try to control the uncontrollable.
“Every time we think there’s a crisis, things work out,” Moody says. “We’ve been lucky that way.”
Meet the Jennys (From Left)
The group’s “token American” and alto, Masse, 28, had just a month to teach herself the upright bass before going on the road. “That was the best way to learn,” she says. “Otherwise it probably would have taken me years.”
A 2004 finalist in the USA Songwriting Competition, Moody, 34, takes an organic approach to composing. “The best songs are written without trying to make them happen,” says the soprano.
When Mehta, 38, gave birth to twins in 2009, she wasn’t sure if she’d return to the band. But her bandmates encouraged her to bring her family on the road. “It’s hard work,” says the mezzo-soprano. “But I feel fortunate.”