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40 DAYS (Red House) • The Wailin' Jennys

Unspeakably good. Literally stunning. I'm falling deep into the well of this record.

I figured I was in for a pleasant experience, but the beauty and the power of this trio is far beyond that. Each of the voices is its own universe, first of all. None of these singers needs the others, and so the joining of forces is truly mighty. None of these writers needs the others, and none of the players. The more I listen, the more amazed I am.

These women come from deep folk traditions, and that's an important element to the story. Cara Luft comes from folk singing parents and a lifetime of guitar playing, her rhythm work on acoustic is truly dense, muscularly musical. (When you consider her sound on their badass cover of "Old Man," you'll see what I mean. She rocks.) But that's just a turn of the diamond, as her ballad of the forgotten, "Untitled," reveals. She is a deep and funky wonder.

Ruth Moody comes from the more lyrical, Celtic side of the tracks. Classically trained in piano and then voice, she became the lead singer for the venerated Canadian group Scruj Macdhuk, which broke up in 2001. She has that celestial purity in her voice that cannot be learned or developed, and which can heal wounds. She seems to have instigated the idea of collaboration with Nicky Mehta and Cara Luft at the Winnipeg Folk Festival that year, looking to sing with other women. Wasn't long and a few gigs afterward that they were headed for the Jacksonville Folk Alliance that led to a summer of festival work as The Wailin' Jennys.

Ruth sings the joyful opener, and Cara the arresting second tune on the record, and the web starts to spread around you. And when Nicky Mehta starts singing "Arlington"--

Where do you go little bird
when it snows, when it snows

--I was done for then. I don't know how many times I've listened to the record now, I lost track. Nicky has had her solo work highly praised by the critics, and was cited by Sing Out magazine as one of the artists to watch. She's mesmerizing. (And don't miss our interview with Nicky in the August 2004 issue.)

The setting for these three beautiful stones is a golden band that begins with the unbelievable Kevin Breit on guitars, dobro, mandolin and mandocello, listen to the man play… Andrew Downing on acoustic bass is magnificent, as is Mark Mariash on drums and percussion, except for "Beautiful Dawn" featuring the talented Christian Dugas. The viola and fiddle of Richard Moody is a beautiful presence.

I'm in love with this group, I need this. Check the clips on the Listen page, and get your version of what I got, here. • FG

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thewailinjennys.com      redhouserecords.com

our interview with Nicky Mehta

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