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Wailin' Jennys

Live at the Mauch Chunk Opera House – 2009 (Red House)

Reviewed by Don Armstrong

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What's in a name? In the case of the Wailin' Jennys, not much. They sound more like Simon and Garfunkle than any Texas outlaw band. Even the feminine surname is off by a quarter on this collection. Sideman Jeremy Penner, who is not distinguished as such in the album notes, plays a piquant fiddle that wanders in and out of these 14 subtly compelling songs recorded at a concert in Jim Thorpe, Pa. on Aug. 30, 2008 in a way that puts it on par with the 3 Jennys' tightly interspersed, often indistinguishable vocals.

Along with classics like Gershwin's Summertime and pleasant surprises such as Racing With the Sun, by the African-American folk artist Ella Jenkins, the Jennys introduce several of their own compositions. On Paint a Picture, newest member Heather Masse threatens to undermine the group's pointedly egalitarian approach with her singing, composing and a warm, amusing stage presence. Nicky Mehta adds a finely controlled lead vocal on Jane Siberry's Calling All Angels. The third Jenny, Ruth Moody, contributes a simple, powerful composition in Glory Bound, and her slightly saccharine voice proves the most efficacious in tight harmony on the Gillian Welch-David Rawlings number One More Dollar.