The Wailin' Jennys, The Wailin' Jennys (self-released, 2002)

 

 

Cara Luft, Ruth Moody, and Nicky Mehta are from Winnepeg, Manitoba. They sing and play and form the all-girl band called The Wailin' Jennys. The six songs on this EP feature stark instrumentation, lovely solos and harmonies, several different folk-styles, and an underlying theme of sorrow and salvation.

For contemporary folk enthusiasts, the key to this theme is the credit to "David Olney" on the second song, a cover of "Water From A Deeper Well." This seekers descent to hell is led by Mehta's prairie voice and accompanied by bodhran and guitar. Many of the songs have water images. Luft's composition "Come all you sailors" says:

"Swim in these salty waters
Cleanse the wounds that run so deep"

A Lomax-Ledbelly song "Bring Me L'i'l Water, Silvy" is one of the prettiest, sung lightly in harmony as by the sirens in "Oh Brother." A Mehta original, "Row Him Home" is sung in contemporary style with guitar and seems to be about death and love. A Mike Scott cover "Bring 'Em All In" is about bringing all the little fishes in from the darkness. Moody's bluegrassy "Sun's Gonna Rise" is water-free and asks: "Help us stumble through the darkness, take us to the morning light."

The very visible thread of spirituality makes the alternatively soft and resilient vocals more brittle and interesting, a "deeper well." Some listeners will find the album pretty, warm, and inspirational, yet darkly beautiful. Others will find it pretty, but confusing and depressing, because of the omnipresent sorrow and consolation and the lack of any explanations in the CD booklet.

[Judith Gennett]

 

Descend into that deeper well.