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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.
All the Way
You Reel Me In
On Market Street
Come Back to the Fountain
Meet Me in France
If You're Willing
Patg Johnson guitar
Dawn Richardson drums
Alec Palao bass
Danny Eisenberg B-3, Wurlitzer
Steven Strauss bass
Michael Papenburg guitar
Julian Smedley violin
Benito Cortez violin
Jeffrey Wood Mellotron, Producer
Adam Muños recording and mixing