I have a sense that this album is going to launch us on a very exciting journey," muses Annabelle Chvostek, the newest member of The Wailin' Jennys. With an eagerness built over months of touring and recording, Chvostek and bandmates Nicky Mehta and Ruth Moody are releasing their much-anticipated second CD, aptly titled Firecracker.
The follow-up to 40 Days (2005 Juno Award winner in the 'best roots/traditional album (group)' category), marks a giant step forward for the band, whose humble beginnings in a Winnipeg guitar shop belie the Jennys' current continent-spanning tour schedule. Recent tours to Australia, the UK, and the US were buoyed by rave reviews and new fans wherever they performed, while recent appearances on the widely broadcast NPR radio show 'A Prairie Home Companion' with Garrison Keillor have also helped the group's burgeoning international reputation.
Produced by David Travers-Smith (Jane Siberry, Harry Manx, Veda Hille), Firecracker presents 13 new songs that beautifully showcase the instrumental versatility, deft songwriting, and ethereal vocal harmonies for which the trio has become known. It is a feast of fresh sounds and diverse styles, with songs like Mehta's indie-pop influenced 'Begin', Moody's roots-rocker 'Things That You Know', and Chvostek's bittersweet country waltz, 'Swallow'. The Jennys have contributed four songs each to the album, along with a breathtaking a cappella version of the traditional song 'Long Time Traveller'. It is here that the most remarkable aspect of this confluence of talent presents itself: the simple beauty of three exquisite voices, singing with an ease and connection that is truly irresistible.
Firecracker also introduces Annabelle as a Jenny to a wider audience. The Montréal-based performer, who plays fiddle, mandolin and acoustic guitar, joined the group in late 2004 after founding member Cara Luft stepped away to pursue her solo career. Winnipeg-based Moody (guitar, banjo, accordion, bodhran) and Mehta (guitar, harmonica, percussion) found themselves on a search for a new Jenny, consulting colleagues across Canada and scouring websites for any possible lead to the perfect collaborator. In Annabelle they found just that: not only an accomplished instrumentalist, but a sensual alto voice that fitted consummately well with Nicky's soulful mezzo and Ruth's pure and delicate soprano.
Within weeks of their initial meeting, the Jennys were off on a series of whirlwind tours that would solidify the reconfigured group and inspire the beginnings of a new album. In October 2005, after juggling preproduction work around tour-dates, the Jennys recorded the bed sessions in Toronto and Winnipeg with a core group of musicians, including Texas-based guitarist Mike Hardwick (Eliza Gilkyson), Toronto-based upright bass player Joe Phillips (Jenny Whiteley, Pierre Schryer) and Winnipeg drummer Christian Dugas (Madrigaia, Scruj MacDuhk, 40 Days).
With the foundation laid, the building began: a collective process that involved recording overdubs in Montréal, Winnipeg, Toronto, and Australia. The Internet played a significant role in the albums completion, with a stream of parts, mixes, and commentary being transmitted laptop to laptop over the course of two months.
An all-star cast of some of the Jennys favorite musicians rounds out the picture: Kevin Breit (Norah Jones, k.d. lang, 40 Days). John Dymond (Bruce Cockburn, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings), Mark Mariash (Lori Cullen, 40 Days), Andrew Downing (Great Uncles of the Revolution, Zubot and Dawson, 40 Days), Grant Johnson (Novillero), fiddler Jeremy Penner (The Bills, Scruj MacDuhk), violist Richard Moody (The Bills, Paris to Kyiv, 40 Days), electric guitarist Justin Abedin (Jacksoul), and acoustic guitarist Brian MacMillan (Lori Cullen). Producer Travers-Smith is also featured on various instruments throughout the album.
As word spreads, more and more people are calling for the Jennys, not the least of whom is Garrison Keillor, whose show 'A Prairie Home Companion' continues to embrace them as frequent guests. The response to date has been overwhelming, their web-site guest-book ever-expanding with enthusiastic entries from the PHC audience. This ongoing PHC relationship (much-cherished by the Jennys) and recent national appearances on CBC, BBC and ABC (Australia), as well as the release of Firecracker and its growing presence on commercial and public radio, and an international touring schedule that is booked well into the year 2007, all seem to make one thing very clear: The Wailin' Jennys' musical journey has, indeed, only just begun.
Soprano Ruth Moody, former lead singer of the Juno-nominated roots act Scruj MacDuhk, is well known for her pure voice and impressive multi-instrumentalism. A classically trained vocalist and pianist known first as an accomplished, versatile singer of traditional and Celtic music, her own writing shines in its diversity and maturity. She is known equally for her moving and haunting ballads as her down-home, upbeat numbers and her first recording "Blue Muse" as well as her writing for the Jennys, reveals an exciting new talent.
Mezzo Nicky Mehta has been called a poet and songwriter of exceptional depth and maturity whose ability to "walk with sorrow" has made her music vital and hopeful; Mehta's songs reflect a wisdom sometimes hard-won but never uncelebrated. Her first album "Weather Vane" was nominated for a 2002 Canadian Music Award for Outstanding Roots Recording and she was recently been counted among the most promising up and coming singer-songwriters in North America by the venerable Sing Out! publication.
Alto Annabelle Chvostek is an innovative singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who performed her first gig at the age of seven with the Canadian Opera Company. She broke on the Montréal cabaret scene in early 1997 with her soulful acoustic jazz-pop and quickly became a major presence in Montréal's music scene. There, she's shared the stage with Dar Williams, Veda Hille, Kinnie Starr, Martha Wainwright, Tegan and Sara, and Penny Lang. Her distinct multidisciplinary bent has also led her to undertake numerous collaborative projects in video, dance and music and she has toured extensively through Canada and Europe.