Remember that scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life” when George Bailey had to pretend to paste the petals back on his daughter Zuzu’s flower? Well I sure could use Jimmy Stewart right now to paste the pieces of my heart back together because it’s on the floor in pieces having listened to the new Wailin’ Jennys’ covers album about 20 times over the past week. But don’t get me wrong. My heart is happy. It’s overwhelmed and glowing and doing cartwheels clear across the floor. The album is called “Fifteen” and on it are nine extraordinarily well-chosen covers. In fact, here’s the list:
- “Old Churchyard” (traditional)
- “Wildflowers” (Tom Petty)
- “The Valley” (Jane Siberry)
- “Light of a Clear Blue Morning” (Dolly Parton)
- “Loves Me Like a Rock” (Paul Simon)
- “Boulder to Birmingham” (Emmylou Harris)
- “Not Alone” (Patty Griffin)
- “Keep Me in Your Heart” (Warren Zevon)
- “Weary Blues From Waitin'” (Hank Williams)
“Fifteen” is their first new album in six years and it’s named after the fact that they’re celebrating the 15th anniversary of their musical partnership. All three of the Jennys have young kids and they live in different cities so making this album presented special challenges. But they did it in five days and produced it themselves. It was engineered by Joby Baker and guest musicians on some of the tracks are Richard Moody (viola, violin and mandolin,) Sam Howard (upright bass,) Adrian Dolan (violin) and Adam Dobres (acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin).
I wish you could have seen the look on my face when I realized the Jennys had covered a beloved Jane Siberry song called “The Valley.” Siberry is one of my lifelong favorite artists and should be more well known. Hats off to the Jennys for choosing this song. They’ve made it their own and when they sing the lines “You will walk, you will walk, you will walk in good company” I can a barely hold it together the harmonies are so beautiful and pure. “Sometimes you feel all that you wanted has been taken away/You will walk,you will walk, you will walk in good company.”
I wish you were there to hand me the tissues I so desperately needed when I heard The Wailin’ Jennys sing Warren Zevon’s “Keep Me in Your Heart.”
You know that torturous feeling of really wanting to hear from someone and it just doesn’t happen? If that feeling had a song to go with it, this would be it. “Sometimes when you’re doing simple things around the house, maybe you think of me and smile. You know I’m tied to you like the buttons on your blouse/Keep me in your heart for a while.” Fuck. But I love it. So much.
The Wailin’ Jennys have been playing Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers” live for a number of years now and I hope they keep on doing so. Needless to say, I still can’t believe that Tom Petty’s gone. Can you? But listen to the Jennys’ take on the song and let its warmth and love and everything else rush over you.
“Boulder to Birmingham” is a song I didn’t know until August and I discovered it when I put together a special Spotify playlist to get ready for my first ever trip to Colorado. A trip specifically to cover the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival. One of the bands I saw was The Wailin’ Jennys. True story. But I digress. The song is from the mid ’70s and was written by Emmylou Harris. It’s sad and sweet and spiritual. Ruth, Heather and Nicky do right by it with sweeping harmonies and exquisite instrumentation. “I would walk all the way from Boulder to Birmingham/If I thought I could see your face.” Goddamn.
Then there’s the cover of Patty Griffin’s “Not Alone.” It’s the last song on her 1996 debut album “Living With Ghosts.” The song aches with need and sorrow and if you let it in, it’ll hold your heart close and tell you that everything is, somehow, going to be OK. The Wailin’ Jennys shoulder the pain and the hope of “Not Alone” and carry it forward. “You are not alone laying in the light/Put out the fire in your head/And lay with me tonight.” The song floats through the air, carries over the ocean and lands softly at your feet. Perfection.
Oh and hey, want to stop the world and melt with a song? Here’s the Jennys’ take on Dolly Parton’s “Light of a Clear Blue Morning.” I can’t even…
I can’t wait for you to hear “Fifteen.” Every song is exceptional and meaningful and you’ll experience a thousand different emotions as you listen to them. The Wailin’ Jennys are playing some shows in November and December and again in February. Keep tabs on them here and here.
Here’s their entire discography because I’m darn handy and thorough:
The Wailin’ Jennys (EP) 2003
40 Days – 2004
Firecracker – 2006
Live at Mauch Chunk Opera House – 2009
Bright Morning Stars -2011
Fifteen – out on October 27, 2017 on Red House Records