LIVE: The Wailin’ Jennys @ The Egg, 4/30/15

The Wailin’ Jennys
The Wailin’ Jennys

Review by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk

With a clever band name like the Wailin’ Jennys, you might assume that you’d be in for a rowdy gaggle of gals with guitars pumping out ornery, twangified cow-punk tunes, but nothing could be further from the truth. The Jennys have been “wailin’” for more than a dozen years now, and when they finally made their long-overdue Albany debut at The Egg’s Hart Theatre recently, they delivered an evening of sublime, subtle, harmony-laden songs that leaned heavily toward the countrified folk end of the musical spectrum.

But it really didn’t matter where the songs came from. The focus was squarely on the intricate intertwining of the three glorious voices of Nicky Mehta, Ruth Moody and Heather Masse. All three are exquisite songwriters, and the bulk of their 75-minute concert featured their original songs – highlighted by Moody’s gospel gem “Glory Bound,” the jazzy swing of Masse’s “Cherry Blossom Love” and Mehta’s haunting ballad “Arlington.”

But you can tell a lot about a band from their selection of covers, and at The Egg, the Jennys plucked the percussive “Deeper Well” from Emmylou Harris’ songbag, neatly sandwiched in between an appropriately world-weary a cappella rendition of Hank Williams’ “Weary Blues from Waiting” and a sweet, sweet treatment of Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers.”

The trio of vocalists/multi-instrumentalists were accompanied by Richard Moody on viola (and a bit of mandolin), but in truth, the vocal firepower was so strong, so absolutely spot-on that the musical backing often melted into the distant background.

Following the hymn-like show-closing peace anthem “One Voice,” the most charming moment of the night came with the a cappella encore of the Celtic classic “The Parting Glass,” which they attempted to start four or five times, each time collapsing into an uncontrollable fit of giggles. They finally abandoned the song altogether and moved on to “Long Time Traveller.” No one complained…

Pennsylvania folk/Americana trio the Stray Birds opened the show with an impressive nine-song set highlighted by a rousing cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “Loretta” and the life-affirming “Best Medicine,” inspired by a visit to the Re-Collector record shop on Jay Street in Schenectady.

Asleep at Last
Swing Low Sail High
Bird Song
Weary Blues from Waitin’ (Hank Williams)
Deeper Well (Emmylou Harris)
Wildflowers (Tom Petty)
Glory Bound
Light of a Clear Blue Morning (Dolly Parton)
Cherry Blossom Love
The Good Night Song
One Voice
Long Time Traveller

The Wailin’ Jennys
The Wailin’ Jennys
The Wailin’ Jennys
The Wailin’ Jennys
The Wailin’ Jennys
The Wailing’ Jennys
The Stray Birds
The Stray Birds
The Stray Birds
The Stray Birds
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