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The Wailin' Jennys

Date 9 September 2006 Venue Capilano College Performing Arts Theatre

Reviewer John Jane

Annabelle Chvostek, Nicky Mehta and Ruth Moody

Annabelle Chvostek, Nicky Mehta and Ruth Moody are three Canadian musicians that make up the folk trio, The Wailin’ Jennys. Since their 2004 recording, entitled “Forty Days”, the band’s profile has heightened to the extent that confused sales clerks in your local music store no longer misdirect you to the Waylon Jennings section when asked about one of their CDs.

Even when Cara Luft was replaced by Montrealer Annabelle Chvostek, the ‘Jennys’ popularity has, if anything, accelerated. With all three girls having distinctive personalities and voices, they are able to create a coherent harmonious synergy as they alternate vocal lead.

Their concert at the 400-seat Capilano College Performing Arts Theatre was sold-out weeks ago and was the first performance of a cross Canada tour to promote their latest recording, “Firecracker.” No surprise when the girls opened the show with a song from their new CD, “The Devil’s Paintbrush Road", a moving bluegrass tune that featured Annabelle Chvostek on vocals and Nicky Mehta on a wailing harmonica.

The Jennys didn’t come just sing their own compositions. The girls sang songs already well-known by other artists, like “Bring me Little Water Sylvie” by Huddie William Ledbetter. (Better known as Ledbelly) The tune was covered by a number of skiffle bands in the sixties; this a capella version was closer to Ledbelly’s original.

For the next couple of songs, the bittersweet “Swallow” and the pop-influenced “Begin”, the threesome got help from fiddle-player Jeremy Penner. He seemed to know the group’s music well and his down home style blended well.

The Jennys closed out the first half set with a Jane Siberry composition, the ethereal "Calling All Angels” from the soundtrack of the film “Pay it Forward” and the title song from their latest recording, “Firecracker.”

After the break, the trio kicked off their second set, showing just how versatile they are with a pair of gospel tunes, before settling back in their more familiar style with the environmentally sensitive “Apocalypse Lullaby”, featuring Annabelle Chvostek.

After a standing ovation from an appreciative and knowledgeable audience, Chvostek, Mehta and Moody returned to the stage for an encore that included “Prairie Town” – thoughtfully descriptive of a Winnipeg winter - where Nicky Mehta and Ruth Moody call home. The second encore selection was a mind-blowing version of the Neil Young classic, “Old Man”, opted for after a couple of false starts with an a capella “The Parting Glass.”

Walking across the sizable Capilano College parking lot after the show, it was fun to see so many concert-goers wearing smiles and clutching their newly acquired, personally autographed Wailin’ Jennys CDs.

© 2006 John Jane