The Wailin’ Jennys are Wonderful

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Last night, Lois and I went to see The Wailin’ Jennys at Tarrytown Music Hall. We don’t own any of their CD’s, and weren’t familiar with their music. So, what made us go see them?

I’ve written a number of times about how much I love to see David Bromberg perform live. In the past year, we’ve seen him twice, once at BB King’s, with his full band, where they also backed up his wife’s band, Angel Band, and once solo at Joe’s Pub.

During the BB King’s concert, someone sitting next to us told us that Bromberg grew up near Tarrytown, NY, and that he tries to play at Tarrytown Music Hall once a year. We live 3+ miles from there, and didn’t realize that there was a regular live music scene there. It got me started checking their web site, and indeed, they have some top performers coming there, albeit not that regularly.

I noticed that The Wailin’ Jennys (or just “The Jennys” as they refer to themselves) were scheduled for last night, and that the site was promoting them as the most popular show of 2006. I listened to a few short clips on the web, and bought the tickets. It was our first time at the Tarrytown Music Hall.

Previously, I’ve written that the best acoustics that we’ve experienced was at Zankel Hall, which is part of Carnegie Hall. That’s probably still true. That said, Tarrytown Music Hall is a pretty close second, which is pretty incredible, because it’s obviously a very old, Broadway style theater, with the numbers worn off of most of the seats, etc. It doesn’t look like it would carry the music as purely as it does, but indeed, it does!

Opening for the Jennys was an unannounced duo. Actually, the performer was Anthony da Costa, who brought along a friend (Oliver Hill) of his creating a duo/duet on stage. Anthony is 16 years old, yes, that’s right, 16! He’s a folk singer. Excellent voice, pretty darn good folk guitarist as well. Unfortunately, a little too precocious for our tastes on the stage. He has a very good stage presence, and the crowd loved him, so we were in a very tiny minority (possibly of size two!). Anyway, he definitely has talent, so I understand why they booked him, and perhaps he will grow into the role as he graduates from High School. 😉

Now for the Jennys. You can read their bios, both for the group, as well as the three ladies (who now tour with a guy as well, though he doesn’t sing) here, where they do a better job than I can in summarizing their backgrounds.

They sing together so beautifully, it’s hard to describe. Each has a spectacular voice individually as well. To boot, all three are extremely accomplished musicians (as you can read in their bios as well), trading off multiple instruments during the show (well, Ruth and Nicky do, while Heather plays a mean bass all night long). They are wonderful when they interact with the audience as well, warm, witty, engaging, interesting, etc.

Of course, now we need to go out and buy all of their CDs. The concert ended late, so we were too tired to hang around and buy them there at the theater.

Having mentioned the Angel Band above, and in at least two previous posts, I think I mentioned in one of them that our favorite song by them is “One Voice”. Last night, when the Jennys returned for their encore, they gave an introduction explaining how they (Ruth) came to write “Once Voice”, and then they sang it (to perfection, of course!). We were blown away that a song that we loved so much was written by a group we didn’t know, but had just enjoyed so thoroughly all evening.

We’ve listened to the Angel Band version so many times, so it is stuck in our heads as the correct version. So, while a little bit of the Jennys version was slightly different, ultimately, we both agreed that it was a little richer, and it would only takes us a few more listens before we would likely prefer it dramatically. No knock on the Angel Band, who sing that song amazingly well!

Then, for the finale (second song in the encore), the Jennys sang their third a capella song of the evening (the first two were extraordinary), but this time, without any microphones either. The three of them just stepped out onto center stage, and sang like the angels that they are. Wow!

Anyway, both the Jennys, and Tarrytown Music Hall are highly recommended!

OK, on to the obvious question: “So, three people singing stunning harmonies, are you over Girlyman yet, and if not, are the Jennys as good?” (inquiring minds want to know, and, my contract with this site requires me to mention Girlyman, as readers of my previous Suzy Boggus post will recall). 😉

For many people, the answer might be yes, but for Lois and I, the answer is no. I’ll speak for myself only (Lois has a slightly different take, but falls in the same direction). The Jennys are amazing, nothing short of it. But, their music (to me) is soothing, almost hypnotic. I was so relaxed (almost mesmerized) during most of their songs. That’s an incredible feeling, and I’ll turn to their CDs (which I will buy this week) when I want/need that feeling.

Girlyman, who are much more minimalistic in their instrumentation, elicit a much more active firing of neurons in my brain. I can’t help but sing along, tap my feet, tap the steering wheel, tap on anything in sight, etc. It’s a more visceral, perhaps even primal connection to the music. Both Lois and I felt that the Jennys could easily achieve that (they most certainly have the talent, in spades), but that’s not the kind of songs they write (or at least not the ones they chose to perform last night).

Take nothing away from them, they are firmly on my favorite groups list now, but Girlyman is still ahead of them on the list. 🙂

  • bob

    hope that we can get a copy of Jenys CD to listen w/ you when you are in Rich. ths weekend…. You should become a music critic and write for one of the papers or online mags…. very interesting write up…. have agreat week…. bob

  • Aw shucks. Don’t know how fast the CDs will arrive, so I might not have them in time for this weekend, but we can always hope! 🙂

  • bob

    hope that we can get a copy of Jenys CD to listen w/ you when you are in Rich. ths weekend…. You should become a music critic and write for one of the papers or online mags…. very interesting write up…. have agreat week…. bob

  • Aw shucks. Don’t know how fast the CDs will arrive, so I might not have them in time for this weekend, but we can always hope! 🙂

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