A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by David Schultz
Sit right back and you'll hear a tale,
A tale of two musicians.
It started in the Big Apple,
Standing outside Penn Station,
Standing outside Penn Station.
Songwriter Ken Rockwood and singer Danielle Brancaccio met in Ken's first band, later striking out on their own. He was a professor and she was a beautician. Now they both sing and he plays guitar. They were discovered playing their unique form of introspective music in the legendary CBGB's. They quickly recorded their debut album, "Fairy Tale", followed by 1995's "Lead Us Not Into Penn Station". Recorded with the help of Joe Jackson band alumni Tony Ellis Aiello, Graham Maby, and Gary Burke, "Lead Us. . ." is a fine collection of songs to cuddle-by-the-fire to, songs telling stories, and songs from Ken's unique twist of humor.
Their style defies classification: I wouldn't call it contemporary folk, nor alternative, although the lyrics contain many of the same features of well-crafted folk songs. It's certainly not rock in the traditional sense as the arrangements are sparse (usually just vocals and guitar) and the vocals are prominently featured. Danielle has a sexy, breathy voice that fits somewhere in between Rickie Lee Jones and Tori Amos and is the perfect vehicle for expressing love in such songs as "Willow" and "Make Me Your Baby". The highlight of the album is "A Perfect Night", a two and a half minute ditty that deserves to be a minor pop hit. Danielle's delivery just beckons you in, and the catchy tune won't leave your head once you've heard it. "Tropical Rain" is an infectious song worthy of Rickie Lee Jones.
Not all of the songs on this album are cute little love songs. "Flea Circus" is a Velvet Undergroundish tale of a human interloper into a circus of ten billion fleas: "the one in the wig thinks he's a clown, there's one in the high wire in danger of falling down." Even black humor appears on "Luck", the upbeat story of three separate incidents in which narrator is associated with the untimely death of the melon-eating Margaret McMillan, a pretzel vendor, and Santa Claus.
Despite the inability to be pigeon-holed into a musical genre, the Professor and Maryann succeed with their brilliant album "Lead Us Not into Penn Station". I look forward to their next release.