The Wailin’ Jennys’ second full-length album is a radiant blend of bluegrass, gospel and Irish folk. Avoiding the temptations of overproduction, Firecracker captures technically exacting musicianship without doing detriment to the music’s soul. Each tune stirs up images of salvation, sin, death and divinity with eerily angelic harmonization tempered by grittier (but precise) vocal inflections. Founding members Nicky Mehta and Ruth Moody share songwriting credit with Annabelle Chvostek, added to the band before the new album’s recording. Though each has a distinctive style, their combination creates a cohesive and well-rounded compilation.
Chvostek, who was since replaced with singer Heather Massey and fiddler Jeremy Penner, pens tunes that appeal to those who like a shot of danger with their bluegrass. “The Devil’s Paintbrush Road,” which kicks off the album, is Chvostek’s masterpiece, thick with mandolin and the repeating line “live and die and gone,” which takes on new meaning in the wake of each line. Moody and Mehta’s songs are also forces to be reckoned with, especially Moody’s “This Heart of Mine” which sports mesmerizing hooks and a goose-bump inducing chorus.
Whatever the lineup that shows up in Hamilton, Firecracker demonstrates how the Wailin’ Jennys command respect for their songcraft, whether the desired effect is calm or combustion. (Erika Fredrickson)
The Wailin’ Jennys perform Thursday, April 12, at 7:30 PM at the Hamilton Performing Arts Center. $17.50/$12.50 advance. Call 375-6074.