Title - 'Living on Mercy'
Artist - Dan Penn
For those not in the know, there aren’t many musical heroes like Dan Penn.
In songwriting circles his name is as good as gold, and often platinum. And when it comes to those who can give life to the human spirit in song, it sometimes feels like Penn is traveling in a party of one.
His voice sounds like it comes from the strong Southern soil in Alabama where he was born and raised, and then deepened in Memphis and Muscle Shoals.
It is a true fact that when Dan Penn sings one of his own songs, something happens that is beyond sound. A light is turned on inside his listeners, and the world takes on an added dimension.
On his new album, Living on Mercy, out August 28th, 2020 on Last Music Co., Penn collaborates with some of the other best songwriters in Nashville, Memphis, Muscle Shoals and points beyond, and applies all the wondrous things he’s seen and learned since his first songwriting job when he was 16 years old.
Indeed, there is a truthful essence in his new music that feels like it is directed by a higher source, one that opens the door to an eternal understanding of what songs are capable of.
1. 'Living on Mercy'
2. 'I'll See You In My Dreams'
3. 'I Do'
4. 'Clean Slate'
5. 'What It Takes To Be True'
6. 'I Didn't Hear That Comin''
7. 'Down On Music Row'
8. 'Edge of Love'
9. 'Leave It Like You Found it'
10. 'Blue Motel'
11. 'Soul Connection'
12. 'Things Happen'
13. 'One Of These Days'
With Penn sounding like a gracefully-aging Eric Clapton, the album opens with the mid-tempo hipsway of the title track 'Living on Mercy' and backs that up with the gentle, Summer's breeze, guitar ballad 'I'll See You In My Dreams,' the delightful 'I Do,' and then both the upbeat and quietly funky 'Clean Slate' and the languishing ballad 'What It Takes To Be True.'
Next we get some perky piano and key work on 'I Didn't Hear That Comin',' which is followed by the Hammond organ majesty that fully embraces 'Down On Music Row,' the rockin' guitar work of 'Edge of Love,' the gentle balladeering of 'Leave It Like You Found it,' and then some troubadour reminiscing within 'Blue Motel.'
Up next is one of my own personal favorites here, the foot-tappin', lo-fi AOR of 'Soul Connection,' which is backed by the love song 'Things Happen,' with the album closing out on the beautiful Gospel-tinged ballad 'One Of These Days.'
It is no accident that Penn has waited his entire life to create Living on Mercy. Nor is it a mistake that it arrived just in time to offer the world a heaping of hope and faith, helping us cross the present river of fear to the other side.
The young tunesmith’s first songwriting hit was 'Is a Bluebird Blue,' recorded by Conway Twitty in 1960. Penn had already recorded his own single, 'Crazy Over You,' in the same year, but when he saw the possibilities of writing songs for others he could see a real career. He was offered $25 a week and never looked back.
It wasn’t much longer before the young Alabaman saw the explosion of Rhythm & Blues happening in Muscle Shoals, not far from where he grew up in Vernon. Soon he’d found a new home.
"You know, I made a handful of money,” he says, “even if it wasn’t a pocketful. When I told my father I was leaving Vernon and going to Muscle Shoals to be a songwriter, he said, ‘Well, I can get you $40 a week working with me in the factory here,’ but I said I was going to try the music thing."
"And he just said, ‘Okay, if that’s what you gotta do.’ I learned then sometimes it’s all about taking chances. That one has worked out okay.”
It’s still working out okay. As with Penn’s soul music mega-hits in the 1960s, songs he co-wrote like 'Do Right Woman,' 'Dark End of the Street,' 'I’m Your Puppet' and so many others, his new album offers a way to see beyond the trials of the present and offers a road to a new place.
And like most good things in the modern world, it comes in the nick of time.
Official Purchase Links
Dan Penn @ Facebook