Missoula guitarist yodeler “Wailing” Aaron Jennings has a self-titled album out, recorded live by Travis Yost, who also plays bass and drums on it. Jennings says he wanted to create an “audio snapshot” of his music as you would hear it in person. Other contributors are fiddle player Grace Decker and John Rossett on mandolin and mandola. Besides his own gigs, Jennings plays pedal steel with Tom Catmull.
Jennings has an authentic old-time country style, which is experiencing a resurgence today. He’d have been comfortable in the early 20th century, too. He’s been playing for about 14 years, originally dabbling in punk. He took to traditional music after finding inspiration in a book of songs and poetry written by his great-grandpa, singing cowboy and yodeler Jim Jennings, who entertained across the West in the ‘20s.
After seeing the words “yodel here” in one of the songs, Aaron taught himself to yodel, taking seven years to perfect the difficult technique. Yodeling is executed in the falsetto range, which is hard for anyone to do, but especially so for a man with a deep baritone voice.
Amid his originals on the CD, Jennings wrote music to two of his great grandfather’s compositions: “Wild Roses” and “Charlie Russell Waltz.” The waltz is spare, with guitar, bass and a nice fiddle break. Jennings’ voice has that old-time radio sound, and he trills some acrobatic “oh-lay-ee-hees” in a few spots. Sheesh!
Chunky instrumental breaks populate the peppy “Missoula Valley Yodel,” along with some kickin’ “low-ee-yay-del-ay-ee–o-ohs.” And there’s the humorous “Dish Doin’ Mama” (“you only do them when you wanna”). Ha!
One final note: Jennings is grateful for the mentors he’s found in music, and pays tribute to one with the “Brian Hall Blues” – a salute to the late radio host and fine mandolinist, who died too young last year.
– Mariss McTucker