2 CD Avengers’ re-issue + new Penelope Houston solo album

By on January 20, 2012

“Now I know my star may hang a little lower,
My voice is ragged and my coat is far from new,
But like the shimmer of a Caroliner rainbow,
Between the cracks the light is coming through”

From the anthem “If You’re Willing” these lyrics bring hope to everyone
who has anticipated the next Penelope Houston album. “On Market Street”
celebrates the musical re-emergence of a unique creative voice and is
being released by Devoted Ruins Records May 15 in conjunction with a 2CD
retrospective devoted to her 70’s punk outfit, The Avengers.

The seeds for this album were planted in October 2004. Bush was about to
be re-elected. The Duelfer Report found no WMDs in Iraq. At the Hotel
Atlantic around the corner from Hamburg’s Knust club, Penelope was
supporting the release of The Pale Green Girl, on a tour that became a
respite from a poisoned marriage. As she watched the light of dawn
breaking, words and music rose up in her mind like an apparition. “If
you’re Willing” signaled a new chapter for her, telling the story of the
need for freedom and self-expression in both personal and political life.
In the weeks that followed a tumultuous mix of desire, betrayal, guilt,
and heartbreak inspired the kernels of many more songs.

Penelope’s next years were momentous – divorce, independence, a notable
lawsuit involving her proto-punk band the Avengers, a return to
university, and nine Avengers tours. Throughout this intense period she
continued to sharpen her message in songs that demanded declaration.
Finally on a summer break Penelope booked time at the San Francisco Bay
Area’s prestigious Fantasy Studios (home to major artists from Sonny
Rollins to Green Day to Joanna Newsom). Here she gathered a team of studio
veterans familiar with her vision, and On Market Street was born.

Penelope and her co-producer Jeffrey Wood (Housemartins, Luka Bloom, Giant
Sand) worked closely with longtime collaborator and guitarist, Pat
Johnson, to shape these personal songs into epic musical narratives. With
the rock solid foundation of drummer Dawn Richardson (4 Non-Blondes, Tracy
Chapman) and the gilding Hammond B3 organ of Danny Eisenberg (Tift
Merritt, Ryan Adams, Jonathan Richman), they created a sweeping backdrop
for “If You’re Willing,” “You Reel Me In,” “Missouri Lounge” and Johnson’s
hymn to forgiveness “Come Back to the Fountain.” These tracks make up On
Market Street’s folk-rock backbone with natural reflections of The Band,
Let it Bleed-era Stones, and an Americana edge recalling Lucinda Williams
by way of Memphis.

Stepping a little to the left of the familiar, Penelope enlisted the
stalwart Steven Strauss to compose Van Dyke Parks-ian string quartet parts
(led by Julian Smedley who has played with Vivian Stanshall, Anthony
Braxton, and Dan Hicks) to burnish the poignant “Meet Me in France” and
“Winter Coats.” Strauss, unafraid of Penelope’s sometimes-unorthodox
musical structures, adds grace to these dark, poetic and complex
heartbreakers. It’s not all gloom and doom, though. Giving us some lighter
moments are the frisky “Scrap” and “USSA,” a humorous wordplay on Cold War
era consumerism.

Just two days prior to entering the studio, Penelope composed her most
moving ballad of social injustice, the title track “On Market Street.”
Bare and haunting with an eerie bed of Mellotron, the song spotlights her
voice, now life-honed to an instrument of strength and fragility. When
asked about her decade-long work at San Francisco’s inner-city library,
Penelope told Glitterhouse, “My contacts with people living downtown on
Market St. have made me examine the ideals and beliefs of our society, our
religions. I’m voicing the questions anyone would ask of a just God, if
their eyes are open.” The circle – started seven years ago with “If You’re
Willing” – was suddenly complete.

“In your cobbled streets and in your alleyways 

I’m singing to the breaking dawn

And if you’re willing to die a little 

You’ll hear my song”

Lush and literate On Market Street is the ultimate Penelope Houston album,
a pinnacle of songwriting, performance, and fidelity that secures her
place in the hearts of her fans and music lovers around the world.

1. All the Way
2. Missouri Lounge
3. You Reel Me in
4. On Market Street
5. Scrap
6. Come Back to the Fountain
7. Winter Coats
8. Dead Girl
9. Meet Me in France
10. If You’re Willing
11. USSA

Penelope Houston – vocals
Pat Johnson – lead guitar, backing vocals
Michael Papenburg – guitar
Dawn Richardson – drums and percussion
Danny Eisenberg – Hammond B-3 and Wurlitzer
Alec Palao – bass on tracks 1, 2, 3, 7, 10, 11
Steven Strauss – bass on tracks 4, 5, 6, 8, 9
Jeffrey Wood – Mellotron on track 4
Julian Smedley – violin
Benito Cortez – violin
Katrina Wreede – viola
Marcie Brown – cello
Produced by Jeffrey Wood and Penelope Houston
Recorded by Adam Muñoz and Jeffrey Wood
Mixed by Adam Muñoz
Additional engineer Alberto Hernandez
String arrangements written by Steven Strauss
Recorded and mixed at Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, CA
Mastered at Ken Lee Mastering, Oakland, CA
Cover design by Nellery Hill
Painting by Penelope Houston


Author: DaveHHM

Dave Luttrull: Owner/Editor in Chief of Hellhound Music. Star Wars nerd, Gamer, Destiny homer, blogger, writer and lover of all things music.