The Hippo


Jul 24, 2019








The Wailin’ Jennys. Courtesy photo.

The Wailin’ Jennys 

Roots trio The Stray Birds open the show
When: Saturday, May 2, 8 p.m.
Where: Capitol Center for the Arts, 44 S. Main St., Concord
Tickets: $28-$38 at

Power of three
The Wailin’ Jennys stop in Concord

By Michael Witthaus

Four years have passed since the last Wailin’ Jennys album. Creatively, however, the group’s three members haven’t slowed down a bit. Nicky Mehta wrote the music for a Winnipeg dance production of Pippi Longstocking and is currently working on a solo record. Heather Masse released the jazzy Lock My Heart in 2013 and began collaborating with trombone player Roswell Rudd in early spring.

But Ruth Moody may be the busiest of all. Moody, who cofounded the folk Americana trio with Mehta more than a decade ago, made the well-received These Wilder Things in 2013, following up 2010’s The Garden. She also sang on myriad projects, including records from Canadian bluegrass stalwarts The Fretless, songwriter Daryl Purpose, a Jackson Browne tribute collection and Mark Knopfler’s two most recent albums. 
The first half of 2015 found Moody wrapping a U.S. solo trek and European dates with Knopfler around the current Jennys tour, which stops at the Capitol Center in Concord on May 2.
All the extracurricular work is good for the trio, Moody said in a recent phone interview. 
“We have more scope, more experiences to draw from,” she said. “I think it helps us to grow as musicians to go off and learn and then come back and see where everyone’s been.”
For Knopfler’s just-released Tracker, Moody shared lead vocals on the ballad “Wherever I Go” — though she wasn’t really told of her prominent role in advance. 
“I guess he had sort of mentioned that it might be nice for me to take a verse,” she said. “I thought, that’s a nice idea but it will never happen. Then I got to the studio and he went, ‘OK, this is what we want.’ Needless to say, it’s a huge honor to sing a duet with him, and I’m glad I didn’t actually think about it too much.”
The tune’s weary-traveler theme struck a chord with Moody, a constantly touring musician. 
“It’s ambiguous who the narrator is, who’s being addressed, what kind of relationship it is — which I love, and as someone who’s kind of perpetually displaced, it actually made me cry the first time I heard the working track,” she said. “It’s a gorgeous song.”
The Jennys’ live schedule is dialed back these days, mainly due to parental demands. Mehta had twin boys in 2009, and Masse gave birth to a son in 2012. 
“In the past we toured a lot and it became almost the only thing in our lives,” Moody said. “I feel like we have a really healthy approach to it now. We have more balance.”
Thirteen-plus years down the road, walking on stage with the Jennys still provides the same spark. 
“When Nicky and I co-founded the group, we were such spring chickens,” Moody said. “Yet it still feels fresh, good and right, and we’re still inspired by it. … I don’t know if I like the word ‘safe,’ but it feels like home and it never gets old.”
In fits and starts, the group is working on material to follow up 2011’s Juno winner Bright Morning Stars. Moody said that winning the Canadian version of a Grammy for their first studio effort with newest member Masse was satisfying, but also a surprise.
“We had already won a Juno so we weren’t expecting it or anything. I mean, Heather reminds us that when they called our name we looked at each other in complete disbelief for about 10 seconds.”
Though born in Canada, the band gained solid New England bona fides with the addition of Masse in 2007, at the urging of Crooked Still’s Aoife O’Donovan. Masse’s audition — if that’s the right word — happened in the bathroom of a Philadelphia folk club. 
“It was really the only place to go,” Moody said. “We sang a couple of songs and knew right away. The blend was already there, and she has a beautiful voice and her range was … the way she fit in with us was great. It was love at first sound.”
Moody expects the trio will perform a few new songs at the Capitol Center show. An upcoming appearance on NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion provided added urgency in that department. 
“We feel like we have to have a couple of new ones,” Moody said with a laugh. “It’s true, that’s the key. Whenever we play on Prairie Home, we go, ‘Crap, we need to do something new!’ It gets us working on that.” 
As seen in the April 23, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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