It’s been a minute — six years, actually — since we’ve heard from The Wailin’ Jennys on record. But the wait ends with the Oct. 27 release of Fifteen, a covers album that also commemorates the Canadian trio’s 15th anniversary and features a version of Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers” that’s premiering below (pre-order here).
“A covers album is something our fans have been asking for for a really long time,” the group’s Nicky Mehta tells Billboard. With all three members now mothers — Mehta had twins just prior to 2011’s Bright Morning Stars while Ruth Moody and Heather Masse each had their first children subsequently — doing a new set of original material was “tricky trying to find a big chunk of time to work on songs and then get in the studio.” Doing the nine covers, however, was much more expedient.
“We’d had these songs we’d been playing for a while, covers that we loved,” Mehta says. “So we thought, ‘Why don’t we do a covers album?’ We did most of the arranging over the phone and on Skype, and we got together for a few days in person in the studio and it was a very fast process, unlike anything we’ve ever done. It came together really quickly and well.”
“Wildflowers” is a song the Jennys have been performing for a long time. “It was road-tested and has become a favorite. A lot of people have asked us, ‘When are you gonna record that one?'” she says. “It’s a favorite of all of ours, too. That’s one we love to do.” The Jennys’ arrangement is stark but melodically faithful, and the group decided to twist its delivery a bit for the Fifteen version. “We trade up leads on that one, and that’s something we don’t always do, but it seemed to work really well,” Mehta notes.
Fifteen includes other seasoned favorites, including Warren Zevon’s “Keep Me In Your Heart,” Hank Williams’ “Wear Blues From Waiting,” Jane Siberry’s “The Valley,” Dolly Parton’s “Light Of A Clear Blue Morning” and the traditional “Old Churchyard.” Paul Simon’s “Loves Me Like A Rock” is a more recent addition to the Jennys repertoire, while Emmylou Harris’ “Boulder To Birmingham” and Patty Griffin’s “Not Alone” were selected especially for the album.
With motherhood preventing the Jennys from full-scale touring, the trio still hits the road for a few gigs each month. No major 15th anniversary celebration is planned, but the Jennys are happy to still be harmonizing together after a decade and a half. “It’s kind of hard to believe it’s been 15 years, actually,” Mehta says. “I think if anything it feels longer than that because with all of the kids coming along it’s hard not to feel like time has passed. But it’s good, and we’re happy.”