Live at the Mauch Chunk Opera House
Winnepeg, Manitoba’s The Wailin’ Jennys became the toast of the Americana-folk scene with the gracious three-part harmonies of their debut full-length 40 Days (2004). Founding Jennys members Ruth Moody (soprano) and Nicky Mehta (mezzo) have since recruited alto Heather Masse to the band. The first disc by this trio, Live at the Mauch Chunk Opera House doesn’t merely present stage versions of songs from the band’s previous three releases, although it does include fan favorites like “Arlington” and “One Voice.” Instead there are eight new songs, most featuring Masse singing lead, as on an interesting arrangement of “Motherless Child,” that goes from mournful to rockin’, and on a couple of her own compositions. Masse is also out front for a cappella versions of Gershwin’s “Summertime” and Lead Belly’s “Bring Me Li’l Water Silvy”(a haunting rendition), both of which showcase how gloriously these three voices blend together. The band’s playing, augmented by Jeremy Penner on violin, is fresh and uncluttered, even with the additions of Masse’s upright bass and Mehta’s drums bringing a new bottom to the mix of acoustic guitar, banjo and accordion.