The Wailin' Jennys
The Wailin' Jennys is a Canadian folk music trio originating in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Their name is a pun on country singer Waylon Jennings. Since forming in 2002 when a local music shop brought together three solo acts for a performance, the trio has released a series of albums, two of which have won Juno Awards, Canada's top music industry award. Their album "40 Days" won the "Roots and Traditional Album of the Year by a Group" in 2005, as did their album "Bright Morning Stars" in 2012. They were also nominated for the same award in 2007 for "Firecracker". Over the years, the group has featured regularly on Garrison Keillor's live radio variety show "A Prairie Home Companion".
Three extraordinary voices, two founding singer-songwriters, one singular vision: The Wailin' Jennys continue to evolve into far more than the melodious sum of their individual talents years after blowing in on a fresh acoustic breeze from Canada's mid-western heartland.
Spurred onward by a growing fan base that swoons at their intuitive harmonies and revels in their engaging stage presence and uplifting repertoire, the Jennys embarked on a giddy blur of activity following the release of their second album, Firecracker, in August, 2006. Numerous head-turning reviews ("quiet, warm, subtle, mellifluous, almost too good to be true," noted British daily The Independent) greeted a recording produced by David Travers-Smith (Jane Siberry, Harry Manx) and featuring a crew of ace musicians led by guitarist Kevin Breit (Norah Jones, k.d. lang). The trio wooed progressively larger audiences throughout North America while also making successful forays to Australia, the U.K. and continental Europe.
Foremost among a series of uplifting life moments have been a second Juno Award, the continuation of a much-cherished relationship with A Prairie Home Companion (Garrison Keillor's popular National Public Radio show) and a memorable date alongside Rosanne Cash at the prestigious Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow.
"One Voice," a live staple and highlight of the Jennys' Juno- winning debut album 40 Days, remains a metaphoric statement of intent that to this day underlines the group's original mandate: three individuals with unique gifts combining seamlessly into a single beatific entity. Soprano Ruth Moody (guitar, banjo, accordion, bodhran) and mezzo Nicky Mehta (guitar, harmonica, ukulele, percussion) are charter members who've anchored the Jennys since the first line-up formed in their Winnipeg hometown. The critical third voice, an alto who fills out the chordal range of the group's vibrant three-part harmonies, has been filled in turn by Cara Luft, Annabelle Chvostek and, now that the latter has returned to her own solo career, new recruit Heather Masse.
Launching what fans are fondly calling version 3.0 of the Jennys, Heather is a New York-based singer and stand-up bass player who finds the middle ground between contemporary bluegrass (through her work with roots supergroup The Wayfaring Strangers) and jazz vocals (which she studied at the New England Conservatory of Music). She gelled immediately with Ruth and Nicky during an impromptu audition in a bathroom backstage in Philadelphia. Singing raw versions of "Amazing Grace" and an old Hank Williams song, the three women quickly nailed the essence of the Jennys' exquisite sound while hinting at exciting new possibilities that will flower in the months of touring and studio sessions that lie ahead.
"Heather fits in astonishingly well with us," enthuses Nicky. "She's got a smoky, enveloping kind of style. People will go nuts when they hear her." Adds Ruth, who first learned of Heather from their mutual friend, Crooked Still's Aoife O'Donovan: "We found a perfect vocal blend the first time with Cara, then we captured it in a different way with Annabelle. So naturally we were thinking, 'Oh man, can it really happen again?' But we have stumbled on such a rich treasure. Her voice is just so round and warm."
Ruth Moody has long understood the power of three. She grew up in an accomplished musical family singing with two sisters, then spent five years fronting Winnipeg's Scruj MacDuhk. When the popular Celtic/roots road warriors broke up in 2001, she again craved what she calls "the sense of completeness and wholeness that can only come with three female voices. The Jennys provide a sense of continuity that threads through my entire life."
For her part, Nicky Mehta was on track for post-graduate studies in communications when she released a buzzworthy solo debut CD and, not long after, signed on as a first-generation Jenny. "The group sort of just happened to us," she says, laughing. "The idea was to present our individual visions in a larger collective, but before we knew it things had taken on a life of their own. We've constantly been playing catch up ever since. What's great is that nothing has been premeditated and we keep being surprised in the most creative, interesting ways."
"Now we've closed another chapter in the Jennys' story and opened a new one," says Ruth. "We're thrilled to be writing it with Heather. She's a kindred spirit. That we can find the magic while laughing and singing together in a dimly lit bathroom says it all really."
Although best known for her work with The Wailin’ Jennys, Soprano Ruth Moody is an artist of remarkable depth and grace in her own right. Critics have lauded her ethereal vocals, impressive multi-instrumentalism (she plays guitar, banjo, accordion, piano, and bodhrán), and her talent as a songwriter. Writing with a maturity and wisdom that belies her age, her songs are timeless, universal, and exceptionally well-crafted, all sung with a unique intimacy and honesty that is unmistakably hers.
Ruth was a finalist in the USA Songwriting Competition and was recognized by the International Songwriting Competition for her song “One Voice,” which has gone on to be a signature song for The Wailin’ Jennys. It has been covered by countless artists and has been performed in concert halls, churches and schools throughout the world.
Ruth recently released her highly-anticipated solo album, The Garden. Although she put out a solo EP in 2002 called Blue Muse, it is Ruth’s first full-length recording. Released on Red House Records on April 20, 2010, the album was produced by David Travers-Smith and features an all-star cast including neo-bluegrass band Crooked Still, Kevin Breit (Norah Jones, k.d. lang), Matt Peters of The Waking Eyes, Luke Doucet, Oh Susanna, and a guest appearance by The Wailin' Jennys.
Ruth showcased at the South By Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival in Austin Texas this year and will tour throughout 2010 and 2011, playing solo and with The Wailin’ Jennys.
Mezzo Nicky Mehta has been called a poet and songwriter of exceptional depth and maturity whose ability to "walk with sorrow" has made her music vital and hopeful; Mehta's songs reflect a wisdom sometimes hard-won but never uncelebrated. Her first album Weather Vane was nominated for a 2002 Canadian Music Award for Outstanding Roots Recording and the venerable Sing Out! publication counted her among the most promising up and coming singer-songwriters in North America.
As a founding member of The Wailin' Jennys, Nicky has continued to capture hearts and imaginations with her music. She was a finalist in the USA Songwriting Competition for her masterful "Arlington." As well, her song "Begin", a compassionate ode to mindfulness, was both featured in the film "The Cake Eaters" (directed by Mary Stuart Masterson and starring Kristin Stewart) and on the season-closing episode of Lifetime's "Army Wives".
Nicky gave birth to twin boys, Beck and Finn, in July of 2009 and is thrilled to have them and her partner, Grant (the band's sound engineer) out on the road with her.
New York singer-songmaker Heather Masse grew up in rural Maine and began singing at an early age. Trained at the New England Conservatory of Music as a jazz singer, she is steeped in the jazz tradition, which informs her distinct approach to singing folk, pop and bluegrass.
A member of the Billboard-charting folk supergroup The Wailin’ Jennys, Heather has performed at the top venues, sharing the stage with the world’s most acclaimed pop, classical and jazz acts, including Elvis Costello, Wynton Marsalis, Sheryl Crow and the Boston Pops Orchestra. She has been a frequest guest on Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion, both as a solo performer and as a member of The Jennys. Heather has performed with the renowned contemporary bluegrass band The Wayfaring Strangers and in 2006, recorded an eponymous album with Joy Kills Sorrow, a contemporary stringband from Boston. She also released Tell Me Tonight with the Brooklyn-based collaboration Heather & the Barbarians.
In 2008, Heather released Many Moons, an EP of jazz-inspired folk duets with pianist Jed Wilson. Now releasing her first full-length album, she delivers Bird Song--her solo debut on Red House Records. Showcasing her luscious alto voice and her superb songwriting, the CD is acoustic pop music at its best--thoughtful and soulful and sure to be a hit with fans of Norah Jones and Alison Krauss.