The Wailin' Jennys, Firecracker (Red House Records, 2006)

The Wailin' Jennys are a Canadian trio. At the time their second album Firecracker was recorded, the line-up consisted of Annabelle Chvostek, Nicky Mehta, and Ruth Moody, all of whom sing, write songs, and play multiple instruments. (Chvostek has since left and was replaced by Heather Masse.) Their music blends country and bluegrass with pop and gospel thrown in as well. Firecracker is their second album together. Given the three-part female harmonies, The Wailin' Jennys could fairly accurately be described as a rootsier, less sassy version of The Dixie Chicks, and will probably draw most of their audience from fans of that band.

I first heard of The Wailin' Jennys when their song "Devil's Paintbrush Road," the Chvostek composition that leads off Firecracker, got played on Radio Paradise. That particular song is a great number driven by Chvostek's strummed violin, but unfortunately nothing else on the album is nearly as good. The band's numerous attempts at countrified pop boast some pleasant enough harmonies, but otherwise sound predictable and formulaic. They fare better when going for a more rustic sound, like with the waltzy "Swallow" (another composition by Chvostek), but only the opening song stayed with me when I moved on to other albums.

The Wailin' Jennys have some promise, but seem torn between trying to be a folk act and a pop act and don't do well enough at either. Firecracker does have an excellent opening song that's worth checking out or downloading. Otherwise, it really didn't hold my interest.

Overall grade: C+

reviewed by Scott

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