Posts Tagged ‘Wailin’ Jennys’

Saturday Singles Nos. 83 & 84

July 25, 2011

Originally posted August 2, 2008

This will be brief, as other obligations sing for my attention this morning.

The Texas Gal and I have only four weeks to get everything ready for the move, and although we have done a great deal of packing, much remains to be done. So I will spend a good portion of the day wrestling LPs into boxes. A sore back is one of the risks there, but the greater risk is that I stop every five minutes to examine a record jacket, murmuring, “I forgot I had this one. I need to see what shape it’s in before I pack it.” I will have to be strong, tell myself that the record – Hoppkorv by Hot Tuna, maybe, or perhaps Alvin Lee’s In Flight – will emerge from the box at the other end of the move and that will be soon enough.

I also will be brief today as our newest catboy, Henri Matisse, has an appointment with Dr. Tess this morning for his second round of shots. We got Henri from one of the Texas Gal’s co-workers, who said he just showed up at her mother’s house one day, and the little guy does have some of the traits that strays pick up. But he’s a cute and affectionate kitten, and in only a few weeks has become part of the family (despite some grumbling from Clarence, eldest of the cats).

So, to music: Having spent Thursday evening at St. Cloud’s Paramount Theatre listening to the Wailin’ Jennys for the second time in a little more than a year, it was pretty easy to decide what to share this morning. The Jennys – soprano Ruth Moody, mezzo Nicky Mehta and alto Heather Masse – gave a jaw-dropping performance again. Much of the set-list was the same as last year’s show, with a few new songs dropped in. Even the familiar material was thrilling, though, given the vocal and instrumental musicianship of the three women (and of Jeremy Penner, their male violinist, whom they affectionately call Wailin’ Jeremy).

So for a summer Saturday morning, here are the Wailin’ Jennys with their version of Neil Young’s “Old Man,” from their 2004 CD, 40 Days, and with Mehta’s “Avila,” from the 2006 CD Firecracker.

Wailin’ Jennys – “Old Man” [2004]

Wailin’ Jennys – “Avila” [2006]

Saturday Single No. 10

April 18, 2011

Originally posted April 21, 2007

Well, what a nice evening we had: dinner out and a concert, something we don’t do all that often.

We spent an hour at one of our favorite St. Cloud eateries – the Mexican Village downtown. The Texas Gal had chicken quesadillas and a piña colada without rum; I had a burrito (custom-made with corn, not flour tortillas) and a large draught of Dos Equis Amber. The food, as almost always at the Mexican Village, was very good.

I’ve always liked the Mexican Village. It opened in about 1979, shortly after I left St. Cloud, but I got there on occasion during my years living away. There’s been a restaurant on that location for as long as I can remember. Before the Village, that site was the location of the OK Café, the only place in St. Cloud when I was growing up where one could get Chinese food. Well, American versions of Chinese food, for the most part; authenticity was not a major issue for adventurous diners in the 1960s and 1970s, and in St. Cloud, the OK Café was about as adventurous as it got. A place like the Mexican Village or any of the ten or so restaurants that serve fairly authentic Chinese food would have been hard to sell in those years. And something like the Sawat Dee, which serves Thai food just a few blocks from the Mexican Village, would have been unthinkable!

Anyway, after a fine dinner – and a good beer; I like Dos Equis Amber pretty well, although I am leaning these days toward porters and pale ales – we headed down St. Germain, St. Cloud’s main street, to the Paramout Theater and the Wailin’ Jennys.

The Jennys originally came from Winnipeg, Manitoba, on Canada’s prairie, and two of the original three singers – soprano Ruth Moody and mezzo Nicky Mehta – are still with the group. Heather Masse, an alto, is on her first tour with the group; she is the third singer to fill that third spot since the Jennys formed in 2002. (Masse noted while introducing one of the songs that during a recent show, Moody introduced her as being from New York City. To generous laughter, Masse said she made it clear afterwards that she is not from New York City but rather from Brooklyn.)

It was a marvelous show, with the Jennys – augmented by the addition of fiddler Jeremy Penner, who also played mandolin on a few songs – running through a repertoire of folk, gospel, blues and countryish tunes presented with some of the best three-part harmonies I’ve ever heard. From the opening song – Leadbelly’s “Bring Me L’il Water, Sylvi” sung a capella – to the closing “The Parting Glass,” a traditional Irish tune that the Jennys sang without microphones from the lip of the stage, it was wonderful.

Not only were the vocals extraordinarily good, but the Jennys’ instrumental musicianship was exquisite: Moody played guitar, banjo, accordion and on one tune, the Irish drum called the bodhran. Mehta played guitar, ukulele (yes, and it worked!), harmonica and blues harp and a brushed snare drum. Masse played string bass, which Moody noted before one song that she’s only played for a very short time. The same was true, Moody said of Penner on the mandolin. If that’s the case (and I have no reason to doubt), Masse and Penner are very quick studies.

The group did two sets of about forty-five minutes each, drawing from their two full-length CDs – The Wailin’ Jennys from 2004 and Firecracker from 2006, as well as from a 2003 EP titled The Wailin’ Jennys. Minnesota audiences are notoriously generous with their standing ovations, but the Jennys earned theirs last night, and the full house at the Paramount was happy to provide it.

And after a Friday evening like that, what else could I present here but something by the Wailin’ Jennys? So here’s “Begin” from their 2006 CD Firecracker, today’s Saturday Single.

The Wailin’ Jennys – “Begin” [2006]

Some Highlights From 2001-2005

December 30, 2010

Well, Odd and Pop didn’t show up this morning here at Echoes In The Wind. I think they’re outside playing in the rain that will soon freeze and turn St. Cloud into one large skating rink. And as I have errands to run today and don’t want to slide into the side of the drug store while running them, I’ve split what was a one-day idea into a two-day project, which it seems I will have to complete without any help from the two little tuneheads.

My thought was to look at some of my favorite music from the last ten years, the first ten years of the 21st Century, but as I waded through thousands of titles, it got more and more difficult to decide on favorites, so I thought I’d just mention a couple of titles from each year. And I dithered and dithered and then realized I was going to have to do this over two posts, which means a rare Friday post tomorrow, the last day of the decade.

Well, all right. So, what do I like to hear from these years? Well, lots of stuff, as it turns out. But if I had to pull one album and one track from each of the ten years, here’s how the first half of the list would look today:

From 2001, I’d end up with Bob Dylan’s album Love and Theft, a ramble through various styles of American music: folk, blues, rock and some other genres that might not have labels unless one uses a lot of hyphens. Among my favorite tracks are “Mississippi” and the great “High Water (For Charley Patton).”

I got into Texas singer Pat Green when he hit with “Wave on Wave” in 2003. (I’ve listened to and learned more about country music and Texas music in the past decade than ever before; the Texas Gal obviously gets grateful credit for that.) Anyway, liking “Wave on Wave” as much as I did, I got the CD and then began to dig into Green’s earlier stuff. And I discovered “Southbound 35” from his 2001 effort, Three Days. Another version is on the same year’s Dancehall Dreamer. I’m unable to find a video of either of the studio versions, so we’ll have to go back to the last century and a version of the song on Green’s 1999 release Live At Billy Bob’s Texas.

It took me a couple of years to catch up to it, but this morning, my favorite album from 2002 is Jorma Kaukonen’s Blue Country Heart. The former guitarist for the Jefferson Airplane (and cofounder of Hot Tuna) put together what All-Music Guide called “his most summertime-afternoon, front-porch-pickin’ album.” My favorite track? Probably Kaukonen’s take on Jimmie Rodgers’ classic “Waiting For A Train.”

One of the other musical highlights of 2002 was the massive memorial Concert for George in London on November 29. Recorded for release in 2003, the concert featured a gathering of friends who’d played and recorded over the years with the quiet Beatle, including his old bandmates Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney along with Eric Clapton, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and more. The least well-known performer on this side of the Atlantic, I’d guess, was Joe Brown, who closed the concert with a heart-tugging cover of a very old tune, “I’ll See You In My Dreams.” I couldn’t find a video of the live version from the concert, but here’s a studio version on which I’ve been unable to put a date.

Another album I caught up with a couple years late was by another alumnus from Jefferson Airplane and the other co-founder of Hot Tuna: bassist Jack Casady. His 2003 effort, Dream Factor, was an intriguing tour through blues, folk and Southern rock, featuring a strong list of guest vocalists and Casady’s always supple work on bass. My favorite tracks are likely “Paradise” and the closer, “Sweden.”

Country music pulled me in more during 2003. The Texas Gal and I spent a fair amount of time on quiet evenings watching country videos on cable and keeping track of CDs we wanted to hear. One of those videos was a Brooks & Dunn piece, and it led me to a CD that still shows up in the CD player around here. Here’s the official video for Brooks & Dunn’s “Red Dirt Road.”

The 2004 CD Original Soul was credited simply to Grace Potter, but the album was actually the first ever heard of Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, a band out of Vermont that has since released three more well-received CDs, all of which have places on my shelf. If I had to choose one track from Original Soul, I’d probably go with the slow groove of “Go Down Low,” but that’s a default choice; the album is too good to pull just one track as a favorite.

Continuing in a rootsy vein (no surprise there, I imagine), one of the other highlights of 2004, at least looking back, was the release of 40 Days, the first full-length CD by the Wailin’ Jennys, a trio of women formed in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Texas Gal and I have seen the Jennys twice, and both times, one of the highlights was “Arlington” from 40 Days.

Choosing an album from 2005 was easy, and the choice might be seen as an odd one. Through my blog-created connection with Patti Dahlstrom, I was also linked to long-time musician Don Dunn, who – among his many accomplishments – was the cowriter of one of my favorite tunes ever, “Hitchcock Railway.” And through that connection, I got hold of Don’s Voices From Another Room, an album recorded unexpectedly in Odessa, Ukraine. It’s a CD I often pop into the player late in the evening. My favorite track? Probably “Two Tanyas.”

What else from 2005 has kept my attention? Well, I still listen to all four CDs by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, and my featured track from 2005 comes from the album Naturally, which finds Jones and her amazingly tight band offering an inventive – and somewhat doleful – revision of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.”

Finally, for today, one of the most memorable records of the the first five years of the decade is one that I cannot place accurately. Gary Jules’ cover of Tears For Fears’ “Mad World” first showed up, I think, on the soundtrack to the 2001 film Donnie Darko. Jules later released it on his own Trading Snakeoil For Wolftickets in 2004. So I don’t know where it fits temporally. But it doesn’t matter, really, as the recording is one of the best things I recall hearing from those first five years of this century.

I’ll be back tomorrow – perhaps with Odd and Pop – to look at music from the years 2006-2010.

(Title error corrected since first posting.)

Saturday Single No. 189

June 12, 2010

Someone asked me once, during one of my weekly newspaper gigs, “Why is the news so bad?”

I don’t recall what I told that person as we stood there, most likely by the frozen foods as other Saturday morning shoppers eased past us on their way to the fruits and vegetables, but the encounter provided me with a little bit of grist for a column about news-gathering and reporting.

The column was essentially reassuring, noting that a generally accurate definition of news is “those things that are out of the ordinary.” We never hear, I wrote, about the many thousands of planes that have uneventful flights; we hear of the one plane that has difficulty. We never hear of the millions of people who leave home for work and then leave work for home every day without encountering anything more troubling than a dirty windshield. We hear about the very few people whose lives intersect in traffic accidents or other more woeful occurrences.

Those airplanes that fail, I argued, and those accidents that damage property and lives – all of those, as horrible as they are to the people caught up in them – are the exceptions, the rarities. The vast majority of us go through our lives untouched by the tragedies around us.

Then, in the 1990s, even as much of the world of news began its merger with the world of entertainment, providing cable outlets with their twenty-four hours of daily programming stuffed with supposition and assumption and decorated with glitz and the occasional nugget of real and honest reporting, even as all that began to dominate the discussion of current events and public policy, I took some comfort in the central fact that generally remained intact: When bad things are news, bad things are generally rare.

And that holds true in the wake of the bad news of the past few weeks, I guess. There is rarity: I don’t ever recall another instance of an out-of-control oil well spewing millions of gallons of crude a day into our nation’s coastal waters. It’s never happened before, at least not on this scale. I think it’s very clear that the gusher on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico – now somewhat but not nearly entirely restrained, as I understand it – is going to make the other oily encounters in our nation’s history – Santa Barbara in 1969 and Prince William Sound in 1989 – seem very, very minor league by comparison.

So this is a rare bit of news. But somehow, I find little comfort in the fact that nothing this bad has ever take place in the history of oil going where it’s not supposed to go. And I doubt that this whole sorry episode is going to end any way but badly for almost everyone involved. Because the thing is, we’re all involved. No one really knows what happens to an ecosystem when this much oil makes landfall as many places as it undoubtedly will in the next months. When the flora and fauna in coastal marshes are poisoned, what else happens nearby? When marine life is poisoned because its waters are studded with what are being called “plumes” of suspended oil, what happens next? With that much poison floating and bobbing around, I’d be more than startled if anyone can seriously begin to estimate the consequences. And once the flora and fauna of the Gulf – on land and in the water – have been damaged, what happens to those species with whom the damaged species intersect? And let’s not kid ourselves. We – homo sapiens the oil guzzler – are one of those intersecting species that will be affected.

I am, as readers can no doubt tell, feeling bleak about this. My mother and I were out running errands the other day, and we were talking about the Gulf disaster. “It’s going to take years to clean up, isn’t it?” she asked me. I told her that if her granddaughter – my niece, now twenty-nine – ever had children, the Gulf might be cleaned in their lifetimes. But I doubt it.

Maybe I’m wrong. It would be nice if I were, if there were some technology that will emerge to make the Gulf – and the rest of us by extension – whole again. But that’s magical thinking, I fear. And in some ways, magical thinking got us here. I think this whole mess is the logical outcome of several strains of self-delusion in American life that finally intersected: the almost maniacal drive toward less regulation of American industry and business that began in 1981; our absolute refusal as a society to become serious about reducing our dependence on oil; and the tendency of many – not all – corporate types to cut corners on safety for workers when doing so can enhance profits.

As I said, I’m feeling bleak these days. And it’s getting more and more difficult for anything – even music – to light the darkness. But here’s one tune that does. It’s “Apocalypse Lullaby” by the Wailin’ Jennys from their 2006 album Firecracker, and it’s today’s Saturday Single:

Edited slightly and video posted March 28, 2014.)