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A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham, two songwriters from the Muscle Shoals area of Alabama are finally getting their due with this disc of their songs, though there is little doubt that this is just a small scratch on the surface of their work. You can see by the diversity of the artists that the songs they write fit into many genres of music, soul, pop, country, and rock. That their songs can be done in this diversity of styles is the mark of excellent songwriting that has that touch of soul/truth to it. This songwriting duo that has had songs recorded by the likes of Percy Sledge, Janis Joplin, Irma Thomas, Dionne Warwick, Charlie Rich, and The Box Tops and the list goes on and on. Oft times it wasn't just that their songs were recorded by artists such as these, but the songs were hits for this variety of artists in this multiplicity of genres. These songs feel distinctly Southern, and it is a Southern that is all inclusive of everyone living in the South regardless of any barriers you want to think of. And as Southern as they are in feel, the sentiments are universal and thus the songs appeal to all. The ideas expressed in songs such as Good Things Don't Come Easy, I'm Your Puppet, and Sweet Inspiration, are all embracing in their message and sentiment.
This 24-track collection covers all the bases of the songwriting prowess. It opens in the genre of Southern Soul where they did some of their most definitive work, Percy Sledge's version of Out of Left Field, moves along to Dionne Warwick's I'm Your Puppet, and the disc spins on showing off some alternate versions of many of their strengths, with many surprises and eye opening cuts to be found. Neither Charlie Rich nor Etta James nor Tommy Roe are singers that one thinks of as dipping into the Penn and Oldham song catalogue, however for the most part all the songs work, and the standouts (we will each have ones that appeal to us) are absolute standouts. If there are aspirations out there about being a songwriter take note of the care and time spent on these songs, they truly define the term "craft of writing a song." No, not all the cuts are necessarily the ones this writer would have selected, however this is sure a great and long overdue comprehensive look at the catalogue of Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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