On Stage Plus: Whitmore Sisters bring harmony to City Winery

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

The Whitmore Sisters

It will be a family affair when the Whitmore Sisters open for the Mastersons on March 21 at City Winery (990 Filbert Street, Philadelphia, citywinery.com/philadelphia).

The Whitmore Sisters — Eleanor and Bonnie Whitmore — are two of roots music’s most accomplished songwriters/instrumentalists/vocalists.

The Mastersons are singer-songwriters/multi-instrumentalists Chris Masterson and Eleanor Whitmore.  In addition to making albums on their own, they also are longtime members of Steve Earle’s band the Dukes.

Bonnie Whitmore has released four albums on her own. The Mastersons also have four albums on their resume.

Recently, the sisters got together and released an album of music they made together. Their debut LP, “Ghost Stories,” was released on January 21, 2022 on Red House Records.

The album is mainly originals along with two covers — “Big Heart Sick Mind,” a song by their friend, and “On the Wings of a Nightingale,” which was written by Paul McCartney for The Everly Brothers. It was produced by Chris Masterson.

“This is our first attempt at making our own album together,” said Eleanor, during a phone interview last week.

“We have played together a lot. And Bonnie has performed on albums by The Mastersons.”

Bonnie said, “In a way, the pandemic helped get this thing off the ground. It gave us time.  We started writing together over Zoom.”

On the band’s website, Bonnie wrote, “We’ve had a lot of loss, a couple of dead ex-boyfriends, and a lot of friends that have passed on – and writing about the grief, especially working towards this record, there’s been a lot to consider.”

For the sisters, making the album was a cathartic experience rather than a sad experience.

“We were writing about friends we had left behind,” said Eleanor. “We’ve had a lot of loss. We’ve always approached songwriting as a form of therapy.

“Going through the pandemic was a time we all experienced. We’ve lost a lot of heroes – a lot of people we cherished.”

Bonnie, who lives in Austin, Texas added, “Songwriting is a way to celebrate people we lost.”

“Ghost Stories,” was recorded at Casa de Masterson and The Station House in Los Angeles. It was produced by Chris Masterson and engineered by Masterson and Mark Rains.

“Going in, Bonnie had a couple finished songs and I had some songs that weren’t finished,” said Eleanor, who lives in Los Angeles.

“The initial inspiration for the album was too narrow. We had to make it more universal. We don’t question where the inspiration comes from. We’re just glad it comes.”

With the Whitmore sisters, who are five-and-a-half years apart, music is also a family affair. It’s in their DNA.

“Our mom was a classically trained,” said Bonnie. “She’s an opera singer. We’ve been listening to opera from the womb.

“Our dad was a folksinger. We were much more popular music lovers.

“Music was always there. We didn’t have much choice.”

Video link for the Whitmore Sisters – https://youtu.be/7RzaRh6E6bY.

The show at City Winery will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20.

Area music fans who love listening to acts with great female vocal harmonies are really in luck this week.

There are the great harmonies by the Whitmore Sisters on Monday and equally impressive harmonies by the Wailin’ Jennys on Wednesday.

The Wailin’ Jennys

On March 23, the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com) will host the Wailin’ Jennys, one of Canada’s premier folk/roots act.

The trio, which was formed in Winnipeg, Manitoba, features Ruth Moody (vocals, banjo, guitar), Nicky Mehta (vocals, guitar, drums) and Heather Masse (vocals, upright bass). Founding member Cara Luft is no longer with the band

The group was founded in 2002, when a Winnipeg guitar shop called Sled Dog Music brought Moody, Mehta and Luft together for a joint performance.

“We were all writing and performing as solo artists in the Winnipeg folk scene,” said Mehta, during a phone interview Wednesday from her home in Manitoba’s capital. “The, we did a show together at Sled Dog Music.”

The show was well received and the owner, John Sharples, scheduled a follow-up performance and suggested they go on tour.

“We put together a self-titled EP to sell at the merch table,” said Mehta. “We released our debut album, ’40 Days’ in 2004. It was well-received.

“The album won the 2005 Juno Award Roots & Traditional Album of the Year. We were pretty much committed at that point. We were working a lot. It just sort of grew steadily from there.”

The trio’s sophomore album, “Firecracker,” in 2006 was a strong follow-up. The LP was nominated for a Juno Award and won a 2007 Folk Alliance Award for Contemporary Release of the Year. The album spent more than a year on the Billboard charts.

The Wailin’ Jenny’s third album brought them to Pennsylvania where they recorded a live show. “Live at the Mauch Chunk Opera House,” was released in 2009.

The pattern of releasing an album every two or three years continued through their fourth album – “Bright Morning Stars,” which was released in 2011. The Jenny’ fifth and most recent album – “Fifteen” – shattered the pattern. It was released six-and-a-half years after the Juno-winning “Bright Morning Stars.”

“There was a six-year gap between albums because of children,” said Mehta. “Lots of children came along. Plus, Heather is American and has lived in Maine and New Mexico. And Ruth moved around a lot.

“We toured all over Canada – except Newfoundland and then started moving into the states and Australia. Once we had kids, we focused on the states.

“Our music hasn’t changed much over the years. We’ve kept things pretty consistent. We’ve always had a lot of influences – a broad range of influences.”

Video link for The Wailin’ Jennys — https://youtu.be/ElWkcqF0VE8.

The show on March 23 will start at 8 p.m.

Ticket prices start at $45.

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