Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Wailin' Jennys - Firecracker

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How do I love thee Wailin’ Jennys, let me count the ways. I guess that’s not entirely objective is it? When I reviewed the Jenny’s last album, 40 Days, I started out by saying that there were no other three people that I would rather be locked in a room with listening to them sing. I am infinitely grateful that I can still address that statement as truth. The Wailin’ Jenny’s new album, Firecracker, is another outstanding example of just how beautiful and expressive the human voice can be.

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On Firecracker, Ruth Moody, Nicky Mehta and Annabelle Chvostek continue to use flawless three-part harmonies to paint elegant pictures of sound. The songwriting on Firecracker is also worthy of being called elegant. The thoughtful, wistful lyrics effortlessly mirror the tone of the outstanding vocal performance.

Firecracker is also a bit of a departure from the Jennys previous incarnation in that several of the songs on the album are presented in a “band” setting as opposed to just the acoustic and vocal offerings of 40 Days. Also, songs written by Annabelle Chvostek, the newest member of the Jenny’s, both open and close Firecracker. Annabelle Chvostek’s gifts as a songwriter are a more than welcome addition to the writing talents of Ruth Moody and Nicky Mehta. Vocally, Chvostek offers the Jennys a tonally darker voice that is less similar to either Moody or Mehta than they are to each other. This gives Firecracker a new dimension that was not present on 40 Days. (Having purchased 40 Days in a digital format and not having access to the liner notes at the time of writing my review, I was just recently educated to the fact that Cara Luft and not Annabelle Chvostek sang on 40 Days…sorry.)

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All of the songs on Firecracker are multifaceted. My favorite example of this is the song Swallow, another Chvostek penned song. At first listen, the song appears to be a simple, straight-forward folk song. However with each subsequent listening, Swallow begins to emanate a certain longing in the lyrics and in the interaction of voices and instruments that helps to create an almost palatable impression of a place that exists only in between the notes of the song. There are also the moments on Firecracker which demonstrate the magnificent tonality and intricacies which The Wailin’ Jennys are capable of in their performance and their songwriting. I found the round refrain near the end of Starlight to be a perfect example of this.

40 Days producer, David Travers-Smith was again enlisted to produce Firecracker and delivers another beautiful sounding album without any of the trademark signs of over-production. He has again been able to capture The Wailin’ Jennys just being The Wailin’ Jennys without adding anything unnecessary. This time out however, he included a sizeable group of musicians to add subtly different flavors to Firecracker while still maintaining the delicate essence of the Jennys.

How do I love thee Wailin’ Jennys, let me count the ways. Now if I could just get them to come to Connecticut or at least less than a two hour drive away, I’d be a very happy man. Oh...and a live album would be nice until they’re able to get back into the studio.

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You can purchase Firecracker @

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