The Wailin’ Jennys: The Un-Bar Band

A few weeks back I went to see The Wailin’ Jennys.  I went to it as kind of a throw-away show; I really like the venue and thought my wife would enjoy the Jennys.  I came away really impressed and just can’t get the show out of my mind until I tell someone about it.  It was a performance that, while not having any particular mind-blowing highlight, was just so solid and well-rounded I can’t remember a single flaw.  Even the inevitable delays for instrument tunings turned into the slightly sarcastic banter (insert comment about whether a banjo is ever in tune) of best friends letting acquaintances in on a long-running joke.

For those not familiar, the Jennys core is Ruth Moody and Nicky Mehta.  They’re generally the lead singers and between them play about a dozen instruments.  Including, I’m pretty sure, an old pink Samsonite as part of the drum kit.  In addition to Ruth and Nicky, Heather Masse is the newest Jenny on bass and tenor vocals, and Jeremy Penner is the token male Jenny on fiddle.

Although not slouches in the instrument department, the reason to go see the Jennys is the vocal harmonies.  Most of the songs feature Ruth or Nicky on lead vocals, but all three women sing on most of the songs.  Most of the show was, naturally, their own songs from “Firecracker” and “40 Days”.  They did a bang-up cover of Neil Young’s “Old Man”.  Great to hear a Neil Young song by someone who can really sing.  Finishing the show’s encore, the ladies in the band stepped out in front of the microphones and did an A Capella version of an old Irish sea shanty.

That sea shanty is what sealed it for me.  A beautiful show with beautiful voices demands a venue where the audience can appreciate the subtlties of harmony.  So, while I’m sure they will be booked into the typical loud cavern with a great bartender, I highly recommend you go out of your way to see them in a setting more acoustically oriented.  The Wailin’ Jennys and rowdy drunks just aren’t going to mix.

But that’s just one man’s opinion.