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penelope houston . the pale green girl
(2004) DBK Works
$11 CD

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$8 digital album

Her brilliant lyrics illustrate dark cinematic tales of lust, arson, and murder on this guitar and organ drenched, Byrdsian folk-rock CD. 11 gorgeous tracks, including songs written by or co-written with Chuck Prophet, Pat Johnson and John Cale.

4 star review at All Music Guide.

Track listing:

  1. Take My Hand
  2. Hole
  3. Bottom Line
  4. Aviatrix
  5. Pale Green Girl
  6. Flight 609
  7. Privilege + Gold
  8. Walnut
  9. Snow
  10. Soul Redeemer
  11. Buffalo Ballet

Not really a movie soundtrack (although you gotta love that faux film poster artwork) the title track was inspired by Joanne Woodward's role in The Fugitive Kind. On these recordings Penelope explores a few different sonic directions. Long gone is the acoustic guitar/mandolin/string bass ensemble now replaced by electric guitar/garage-organ and piano. The plugged-in instrumention compliments the darker themes in her songwriting and more complex arrangements overall. The songs are pop-influenced, but are not the sweeter pop themes of Penelope's previous releases. There's a broader range of influences being brought in this time around.

Multi-instrumentalist/singer/songwriter Pat Johnson (who has worked with everyone from Royal Trux to Charlie Pickett) brings his vast knowledge of the past 40 years of popular music to the arrangements and production of this album. Although Penelope has recorded several of Pat's hit songs in the past (think of him as Serge Gainsbourg to her Jane Birkin) they've shed that skin. This time they wrote, arranged and produced much of the material together, resulting in a distinctly different sound.

It was recorded in Oakland CA, in glorious analog with a full band, including drummer Eljohn Nelson of Poi Dog Pondering. The album contains 10 originals plus one John Cale cover, "Buffalo Ballet," taken from his brilliant 1974 album Fear. Highlights include the Kinks-inspired lead-off track "Take My Hand," "Soul Redeemer," the true story of a female cop killer on Florida's Death Row (written before the film Monster), and "Hole," a cautionary tale for rehab junkies, with music co-written with guitar maverick Chuck Prophet.

Here's the whole press release.