Julie And John Pennell
JPE Records JPE 0003
The Pennells are partners in life and song. They can move between the various forms of American music with ease. Julie sings in an expressive voice with a clarity that belies the subtly she imbues into each lyric. She and John wrote most of these songs but have included a pair of gems from other writers.
“Your Body Never Forgets” is a swinging look at life, “Gonna Hitch a Ride” and “Don’t Think Less of Me,” are the two numbers that feel like bluegrass. Julie picks banjo on the later tune and quite well. The presence of Jerry Douglas and Sam Bush also helps get that feel correct. John plays bass, guitar and trumpet and sings lead on two numbers and harmony throughout the project.
What grabs the listener is the depth of the songs. Song after song they lift the veneer of life and look at what is going on under the obvious actions on the surface. “I’m Not My Body” is as strong a spiritual number as has ever been made. Bush’s mandolin plays off of Douglas’s resophonic guitar nicely on this cut. Julie laments the loss of childhood innocence in “Don’t Think Less Of Me,” as she examines how life’s actions wear away that gossamer truth.
One of the two songs they did not write is a rockabilly number, “Sittin’ By A River,” where John takes the lead with a cutting edge. The other non-original is “Blue Skies” from Irving Berlin that takes every bit of Julie’s range to deliver. It swings nicely.
The Pennells showcase a wide range of talents here nicely. This is not bluegrass but if you are a fan of the better country music out there and like Bob Wills and Willie Nelson, you may find a lot to like here.
REVIEWED BY Robert C. Buckingham