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The heavenly harmonies of The Wailin’ Jennys

Female folk trio returns to the Community Concert Hall
Folk trio The Wailin’ Jennys will play a concert Saturday night at the Community Concert Hall.

See them perform together, and you’d think the members of all-female folk trio The Wailin’ Jennys were put on Earth for the express purpose of combining their voices in song.

Alto, mezzo and soprano weave and crest and carry one another in rivers of sound so lovely that it’s difficult not to make the sing-like-angels comparison. That, or swoon.

Nicky Mehta admits there’s something almost congenital about singing with fellow band members Ruth Moody and Heather Masse.

“People have commented that it’s very much a sister blend without us being sisters,” Mehta said. “That’s what it feels like.”

Four years after their last album, the Canada-based trio is hitting the road for a run of U.S. shows that is bringing them back to Durango. The Wailin’ Jennys will perform Saturday at the Community Concert Hall.

The three will bring a host of instruments – ukulele, upright bass, guitar, banjo, accordion and harmonica – along with backing musician Richard Moody and those voices, of course, to the stage for an evening of roots, folk and Americana melodies.

Along with their standard blend of originals and traditional numbers, The Jennys will be playing some new material they’ve written in the rare free time they’ve found in recent years. Mehta said they are excited to share new songs.

“We really love performing,” she said. “We love the interaction with the audience. It really impacts us to have that communication.”

The Wailin’ Jennys formed 13 years ago in Winnipeg, Manitoba, through a happy accident. Mehta, Moody and former band member Cara Luft, who knew one another casually through the music scene, got to talking as musicians do at the Winnipeg Folk Festival about playing a one-off show together.

“It was really only going to be one show, so we thought, and we weren’t even sure that was gonna happen,” Mehta said. Luckily, an acquaintance who owned a guitar shop took the initiative, hosting a fated first performance at Sled Dog Music that earned an overwhelmingly positive reception.

And although all three had music projects they were working on at the time, Mehta said, they realized that a great opportunity had presented itself.

For one thing, the gigs started coming right away. For another, it just felt like they had hit on a creative collaboration that was too good to not pursue.

“I think that we recognized that we have a really special blend of our voices,” she said.

The Wailin’ Jennys released their first full-length album, “40 Days,” in 2004, and the album nabbed a 2005 Juno Award for Roots and Traditional Album of the Year. They went on to release a string of gorgeous acoustic records that combine chamber folk intimacy with roots, bluegrass, Celtic, pop and Appalachian traditions.

Theirs are songs of lonesome travelers and summer storms and castaway hearts. Life, death, love, loss, all laced together by three voices that murmur, meander, expand and soar in ethereal ways.

Bolstered by frequent appearances on “A Prairie Home Companion” and the strength of their albums, the band has build a sturdy reputation in a timespan that’s now reached well past a decade. The connections with the audience – hearing the effect their songs have on listeners – are what keep it vital, Mehta said. That, and the joy of singing together.

“These days, because we’ve been singing together for so long, it becomes second nature to just meld with each other,” she said. “It almost feels like it’s an unconscious act.”


IF you go

The Wailin’ Jennys will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Fort Lewis College Community Concert Hall, 1000 Rim Drive. Tickets start at $29 and are available at www.durangoconcerts.com or by calling 247-7657.

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