Necessity is the mother of invention yet for the three Wailing Jennys, it's also the practical aspects of motherhood that need to be addressed.
Nicky Mehta, Ruth Moody and Heather Masse now have young children and add to this the fact that they live in two countries on different sides of the North American continent, finding time to record presents a major challenge.
Undeterred, the trio return with their first new album in six years to celebrate 15 years together. With just five days studio time available they decided that a covers album would be the most pragmatic way to get a new release out while also be true to the spirit of their live shows.
Self produced and engineered by Joby Baker, the album also features additional musicians Richard Moody (Ruth’s brother), Sam Howard, Adrian Dolan and Adam Dobres.
Their serene harmonies ensure that the record has a distinctly spiritual feel. This is heightened by their touching renditions of Patty Griffin's Not Alone and Warren Zevon's Keep Me in Your Heart.
The former is about a tragic early death and a loved one left behind, the second was written at the end of Zevon's life in the full knowledge he was dying of cancer. These are sobering songs but the message of each is that hope and love live on even after the mortal coil is severed.
The album opens with an a cappella rendering of Old Churchyard, an English traditional song sung over a single droning viola tone which is less strident and hymnal than the version by Waterson-Carthy.
Unaccompanied vocals also illuminate Dolly Parton's Light of a Clear Blue Morning and Boulder to Birmingham, written by Emmylou Harris after Gram Parson’s death, returns to the theme of mortality.
The standout track is their version of Jane Siberry's The Valley where a discreet string arrangement compliments the goose-bump inducing beauty of the vocal performances.
In a less reflective vein, Wildflowers is a full-band acoustic version of a Tom Petty song that has long been a staple of their live show and there's a feel good version of Paul Simon's Loves Me Like a Rock sung from a female perspective ("When I was a girl.....when I was grown to be a woman" etc.)
Closing with Weary Blues From Waitin’ takes the trio back to their formation in that this Hank Williams song was one of the first songs the three sang together.
With just nine songs and playing time of 34 minutes, the album leaves you wanting more but gives notice that The Wailin' Jennys remain a vibrant and precious force.
Here's to the next 15 years.
The Wailin' Jennys website