The Wailin’ Jennys began as a one-night-only show in a Winnipeg guitar store. Sixteen years later, they continue to tour as a prominent folk group, releasing albums and performing all over the world.
The international folk trio, made up of Ruth Moody, Nicky Mehta and Heather Masse, brings its national tour to Misericordia University on Monday, Feb. 19, at 7:30 p.m., in support of its first new album in six years.
Founding member Moody explained that because they tour constantly, the concept of releasing an album was out of reach for quiet some time.
“We’ve sort of been trying to record an album for a long time,” Moody said. “Our touring schedule has been pretty intense for the last few years… It’s been an interesting challenge to juggle everything, both our professional lives and our family lives. It just became difficult to actually schedule recording.”
When they took time off of touring for Moody’s pregnancy, they decided to seize the opportunity to write an album. With only about five days to record, the trio decided an album of covers fit the bill. Thus, “Fifteen” was born.
“It seemed like a fun and more lighthearted way to celebrate our anniversary, just because it’s different to arrange someone else’s song. There’s something a little less serious about arranging covers,” she said. “You can get kind of bogged down when it’s all original materials. We just thought let’s keep this fun.”
This new album features covers of Dolly Parton’s “Light of a Clear Blue Morning,” Paul Simon’s classic, “Love Me Like A Rock” and Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers,” among others. Attendees at the upcoming Dallas show can expect to hear many songs from this new album, combined with a slew of the Wailin’ Jennys originals, Moody said.
“The three-part harmony is the signature aspect of what we do,” Moody said. “It’s a hard thing to put words to, but I think there’s just something complete about three voices together — and especially three women. That’s what I hear anyway… it’s a transcendent kind of sound for people. We sure feel it when we’re singing together, we feel those vibrations. We’re especially lucky because our voices sit well together and blend really nicely. There’s a natural blend that makes it so that it really feels good to sing together.”
This signature three-part harmony stands out among other folk bands, but each vocalist also brings a diverse musical background to the trio that adds something more to their sound.
Moody, who plays guitar, accordion, banjo and bodhrán, is a classically trained vocalist and pianist who started her career singing and writing Celtic music, while Mehta is a classically trained dancer who was raised on ’70s radio hits and found herself heavily influenced by alternative pop. Mehta also plays guitar, harmonica, drums and ukulele. Then there’s Masse, who learned how to play upright bass while practicing with the Jennys, and graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music after studying jazz vocals.
Prior to Masse joining the group in 2007, the Wailin’ Jennys were primarily seen as an acoustic outfit. But, since creating the current lineup of the trio, the women have truly “found their home” together, Moody said.
“We’ve all pushed ourselves and pushed each other musically,” she added. “When Heather joined the band, she didn’t really play an instrument, but always wanted to play bass. We encouraged her to play. Two months later she was playing bass on stage. Nicky was inspired by that and decided to learn drums. So for that first show with Heather, all of a sudden we had a rhythm section. I learned how to play banjo around the same time… We’re always trying to stretch ourselves as writers and as singers.”
Individually, the ladies forged their way into the music industry, but together, the trio continues to cross new boundaries to create a unique flavor of music for people to enjoy for years to come.
If you go
What: Wailin’ Jennys folk trio
Where: Lemmond Theater at Misericordia University, 301 Lake St., Dallas
When: Monday, Feb. 19, 7:30 p.m.; doors at 6:30 p.m.
Details: Tickets cost $30 for premium seating and $20 for general admission. To purchase tickets, call the university box office at 570-674-6719 or visit misericordia.edu.
— charlotte l. jacobson