This site too slow? Try a mirror  --  Subscribe to the Guide  --  Find artist:
the Ectophiles' Guide: * Guide Home* What's new* * Alphabetical* Genre* Commentator* Location* Random artist* Search* Contact the editors* Credits

Penelope Houston


Country of origin:

U.S.

Type of music generally:

Rock and folk/rock. Recent work especially leans toward the fierce.

Status:

Most recent release, On Market Street (2012)

See also:

Penelope Houston's Website

The Ectophiles' Guide entry for a side project, Penelope Houston and Pat Johnson, and for The Avengers, the punk rock band she was in in the 1970s

Comparisons:

Joy of Cooking, some shared qualities with assorted soloist women. (mapravat@prairienet.org)

Like a slightly darker, more rocky smoother-voiced Cindy Lee Berryhill (I guess I'm talking mostly about lyrics here then). Her most recent work reminds me of Sara Craig and Dalbello, but I wouldn't say she's exactly like any of these. (Neile)

Recent work like jill sobule or sam phillips. (woj@smoe.org)

Recent work kind of like Heather Nova on Siren. (thecritics@earthlink.net)

Covers/own material:

Mostly own and co-writes material, occasional covers

General comments:

A quirky, individual sound. Penelope Houston's voice isn't polished but is appealing, and her music is lively and has wonderful, wry lyrics. There is a strange sense to her style—there's something kinda restrained about her music even though it's lively rock. More like it's tugging against its own leash. But I really like that quality—it's unusual, and gives some of the songs a particularly haunting air. When I listen to her albums I'm always struck by their individuality and energy—I think her punk background (with The Avengers) really informs her approach to folkrock and makes it something zippier.
     For some people her music may take some listening to get attuned to—when I first got The Whole World I couldn't figure out what Vickie, who had praised her so highly on the ecto list, was talking about. But I kept playing it every so often and suddenly I was totally hooked. Seeing her live confirmed that. If you're a fan of folk rock, I don't think you can miss with her—I'm not really a fan of the style as a whole, but I LOVE her discs.
     Penelope Houston has gone through many changes throughout the years—first she did punk music with The Avengers, then began her solo career with Birdboys (which is fairly soft folk and light on the rock), then the next few discs are solidly folkrock, and now tongue seems more rock, despite the ballads and the variety of sound on it. (Neile)

you *must* get at least one of her albums :) all are great, but for a first purchase i'd suggest The Whole World (don't be put off by the cheesy cover photo—me and my friends are mystified—it is not her image AT ALL). It has a wider variety of her various styles than the other albums. Birdboys is her first album and at this time may be hard to find (although well worth the search), Silk Purse from a Sow's Ear has many of the songs from The Whole World and was available through her mailing list & Germany. The song quality is high on all three.
     Her lyrics are maybe more "insightful" than "witty", and emphasize the folk over the rock as the only guitar is acoustic (but Eliot is quite the player, actually the whole band is superb!). she mostly treats love & relationships (60% of the songs). she doesn't have the high range of some artists, but she does have a tone and quality to her voice which perfectly fits the music and the lyrics, making for very powerful work.
     she's one of my most favoritest artists. I tend to try and convert people whenever possible. :) (farmer@lifesci.lscf.ucsb.edu)

Comments about live performance:

see her in concert if at all feasible. she has a lot of fun as does her band, and they give a tremendous show. (farmer@lifesci.lscf.ucsb.edu)

I agree with this totally. I've seen her twice, and each time she seemed as though she was having a wonderful time—and she makes great lively music, so a live show is great fun. (Neile)

Recommended first album:

Eighteen stories down would be a great introduction to the range of her talent overall. The Whole World is the best introduction to her earlier folkrock work and tongue is especially good for people more interested in rock than folk/rock. (Neile)

Recordings:


birdboys

Release info:

1987—Subterranean Records—SUB 63-2

Availability:

Through her website

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for fans of folk/rock

Group members:

Penelope Houston—vocals, bells
Kevin Donahue—piano, accordion
Pat Johnson—guitar, vocals
Meletios Peppas—mandolin, tambourine
Steven Strauss—string bass, vocals

Guest artists:

Eric Lefcowitz—guitar
Tom Freeman—bongos, drums
Snakefinger—bells

Produced by:

Snakefinger

Comments:

I bought this album on spec, as it were, when I spied it in a case some time after Vickie (vickie@enteract.com) had posted a lengthy paean on the ecto list to Houston and her various albums. I have no idea how much like the others it is, but it's definitely interesting listening.
     The musical style, on the whole, seems very reminiscent of commercial folk music from the early '60s. The semiotics of the cover art reflect this; the dominant visual element is a photo of Houston in a dress that might have come from that period, with a tousled hairdo which looks like, when in mint condition, it might have as well. The other elements are more ambiguous: she is leaning against a layer of autumn leaves, and the area to the left of the photo is filled with pictures of bugs, of all things (hey, Fleetwood Mac has its penguins, why can't Penelope Houston have her bugs? :-) ). All this is overprinted with her name, and that of the album, with their respective lines filled out with what look like Aztec glyphs. So much for coherent design. But I digress :-).
     I find it easy to visualize Houston and her acoustic ensemble performing many of these songs on a tiny stage, in the middle of a crowded Greenwich Village folk club, at the height of the New Frontier. For all that, the lyrics do exhibit a higher level of ratiocination than much of the mass-marketed folk music of that period, and may have more in common with those of many of the women artists who make up Ecto's musical vulgate. The music and lyrics seemed to me to share a great deal with those of Joy of Cooking, the late '60s-early '70s band from Berkeley (as is Houston). Most of the songs seem light on the social commentary that was the hallmark of the decade to which they seem to harken; but one track, "Summers of War," sounds like it could easily have been performed in the latter half of that decade. (mapravat@prairienet.org)

Birdboys somehow seems the most mellow, the most folky, light and airy of Penelope Houston's albums—it's still lively, but without the weight of The Whole World. This is an album that totally delights me. (Neile)


The Whole World

Release info:

1993—Heyday Records—Hey 29-2

Availability:

Through her website

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for fans of folk/rock

Group members:

Penelope Houston—vocals, melodica, autoharp
Kevin Mummey—drums, percussion
Eliot Nemzer—guitars
Mel Peppas—mandolin, guitar
Steven Strauss—bass, backing vocals

Guest artists:

Seth Asarnow—bandonean
Frederico Gil Sola—percussion, drums
Josef Brinckmann—accordion
Beth Custer—clarinet
Bryan Higgins—French horn
Cake Yoodi—cello
Bruce Yermazen—cornet

Produced by:

Howard Johnson and Penelope Houston

Comments:

Gotta be in the right mood for her off-key voice but it's nice and raw. Great acoustic instrument choices. I wish she included her lyrics in the cd. They sounded great. Almost reminded me of Suzanne Vega at times. (72064.3606@compuserve.com)

Lively music, wry lyrics. Great stuff. It took me a while to get into the album, but then I LOVED it. It's lively, the lyrics are wonderful, and the performances have variety and conviction. A wonderful album! (Neile)


Silk Purse (from a Sows Ear)

Release info:

1993—Return to Sender, NORMAL Records—RTS 2

Availability:

Limited edition and out of print

Ecto priority:

Recommended for fans

Group members:

Penelope, Mel Peppas, Steven Strauss, Eliot Nemzer, Kevin Mummy, Pat Johnson, Mo Jaksch, Hansi

Guest artists:

Beth Custer, Alan Goldsworthy, Kevin Donahue

Comments:

I remember liking this album a little less than the others of hers I own, which probably makes it a tiny tiny bit less of a tragedy that our copy of it is now unplayable and the disc isn't replaceable. A few of the songs appear on other albums, so I will just have to play her other discs louder and longer, and hold the packaging wistfully. (Actually, a friend came through with a CDR copy since I did pay for the original.) (Neile)

karmal apple

Release info:

1994—NORMAL Records—normal 183

Availability:

Germany and through her website

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Penelope Houston—vocals, autoharp, melodica
Kevin Mummey—drums, percussion
Eliot Nemzer—guitars
Mel Peppas—mandolin, guitar
Steven Strauss—bass vocals

Guest artists:

Pat Johnson—vocals, guitar
Julian Smedley—violins
Sheila Schat—violin, cello
Jonathan Rocko Sills—cello

Produced by:

Penelope Houston and Hawards

Comments:

I love anything Penelope Houston does. This is very much in the vein of The Whole World. Great quick folk rock, with Penelope Houston's very individual voice, both in the singing and in the songwriting. She's great. "Ride" is an especially wonderful song (it also appears on cut you) but the whole album is a delight. (Neile)

cut you

Release info:

1996—Reprise Records—9 46148-2

Availability:

Wide in U.S.

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Penelope Houston—vocals, autoharp, melodica
Meletios Peppas—mandolin, electric and acoustic guitars
Eliot Nemzer—electric and acoustic guitars
Steven Strauss—bass, backing vocals
Kevin Mummey—drums, percussion

Guest artists:

White Out String section:
   Julian Smedley—violin
   Dan Reiter—cello
   Jeffrey Wood—pumping organ, guitar

Produced by:

Jeffrey Wood

Comments:

Too bad this compilation of re-recordings of earlier music seemed not very cohesive and disappeared. It deserves better than that. I love Penelope Houston's style and voice and songwriting. I expected not to like it as much as I do since I already knew most of the songs from earlier albums, but it hangs together fairly well as an album of its own and I like all the new versions of the songs as much as the originals. (Neile)

i didn't realize that the album was a collection of older tracks, but it seemed obvious to my ears that the tracks did not mesh well with each other. i couldn't come up with a good explanation for this in my head, but now i don't have to.
     despite myself, i've found myself drawn to cut you quite a bit. at first, i was just trying to figure out what people liked about this record. now, i'm still not sure that i *like* it, but i like listening to it. that doesn't make any sense, i know, but hey. (woj@smoe.org)

This is a fine collection of songs that really capture the allure and raw edge attraction of this artist. Her songwriting is masterful, but has a dark side that sometimes is downright scary. She has a magnificent voice and gets her message across with conviction. I'm glad she's not singing about me in "Cut You"—now that's frightening. Some of the standout songs are "Glad I'm A Girl", "Qualities Of Mercy", Secret Sign", "Scratch" and "Cut You". (jsutton@rahul.net)

Loved this one from the get go. I really like the guitar in "Waiting Room" and her voice is quite moving on the majority of the tracks. (cockrelt@wpl.lib.oh.us)


tongue

Release info:

1998—WEA (Germany)—3984 24553-2; 1999—Reprise (U.S.)

Availability:

Wide in Germany and U.S.

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Penelope—vocals

Guest artists:

Chuck Prophet—guitar, moog, acoustic and leg steel guitar
Joel Reader—bass, backing vocals
Tim Mooney—drums
Marc Capelle—synth, wurlitzer, piano, B-3, keyboards
Charlotte Caffey (formerly of The Go Go's)—backing vocals
Jane Wiedlin (formerly of The Go Go's)—backing vocals
Irina Mikhalova—backing vocals
Andy Stoler—bass
Jamie Lemoine—drum programming
Steve Price—drumkit
Michael Papenburg—guitars, rhythm guitar
Steve Bowman—drums, percussion, cymbals
Julian Smedley—violin, octave violin
Richard Warn—double bass
Steven Strauss—string arrangement
Pat Johnson—wah guitar
Billie Joe Armstrong—guitar
Danny "Panic" Sullivan—drums

Produced by:

Jeffrey Wood and Penelope Houston

Comments:

Wow! Penelope Houston rocks out like never before. This is still Penelope Houston's folk/rock sound but she leans farther from folk and more toward rock here. It's something that I think will impress her old fans and make her new ones. A vast step up from Cut You, but full of equally or even more powerful songs. It reminds me a lot of early Sara Craig, especially "tongue" and "scum" (it sounds like the album Sara Craig might have done recently if she hadn't turned more pop) or maybe even a few times of Dalbello. There are still some lovely, haunting ballads, especially "the ballad of happy friday and tiger woods". A really nice mix of tough rock and softer ballads that makes for an intriguing album. (Neile)

despite being around for years, i think she's finally getting her sound together. her last album was good, but this one gels really nicely. she rocks more, but not like an aimee mann. more in the vein of a jill sobule or sam phillips. (woj@smoe.org)

I can't get myself to finish listening to the Penelope Houston album. She does rock out, kind of like Heather Nova on Siren. But this album just isn't for me.... (thecritics@earthlink.net)


Once in a Blue Moon

Release info:

2000—penelope.net

Availability:

See her website for information on availability

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for Penelope Houston fans

Group members:

Penelope Houston—vocals, autoharp, melodica

Guest artists:

Pat Johnson—guitars, keyboards, bass, vocals
Mel Pappas—guitar, mandolin
Kevin Mummey—drums
Jack Hines—bass
Eliot Nemzer—guitar
Steven Strauss—bass, vocals
Jeff Jacks—bass
John Washburn—drums
Chuck Prophet—guitar
Tim Mooney—drums
Joel Reader—bass

Produced by:

Compilation produced by Penelope Houston; various tracks produced by P. Johnson and P. Houston

Comments:

This is a compilation of rarities from limited-edition discs and b-sides, including four tracks from Silk Purse (from a Sows Ear), five tracks from the disc Penelope Houston recorded with Pat Johnson, Crazy Baby, and six previously unreleased demos and outtakes. Highly recommended for Penelope Houston fans. I'd recommend other albums for an introduction to her, though. I've been listening to it a lot. It's not as great as tongue, of course and I have a lot of the rarities material on it in other places, but it's still fun folk/rock with Penelope Houston's wry, energetic look at life. (Neile)

Loners, Stoners and Prison Brides

Release info:

2000—NORMAL Records, P.O. Box 150117, 53040 Bonn, Germany

Availability:

LImited edition available in Germany or by mail order from Penelope Houston's website

Ecto priority:

Recommended for Penelope Houston fans

Group members:

Penelope Houston—vocals, melodica, autoharp

Guest artists:

Michael Pappenburg—guitar
Katharine Chase—bass, guitar, backing vocals
Dawn Richardson—drums, samples on 2 tracks
Chuck Prophet—guitar on 2 tracks
Stephanie Finch—keyboards on 2 tracks
Steve Bowman—drums on 2 tracks

Comments:

This is a collection from live shows from 1999, and is mostly a throwback to her earlier more acoustic days and sound. Unfortunately the versions here don't necessarily show off her voice (or her backup singer's) at its best. My two favourite tracks, and the best reasons for getting this disc, are the live acoustic versions of "The Ballad of Happy Friday and Tiger Woods" and "Hundertwasser 567", and there are also a couple of songs that haven't appeared anywhere else yet. I still love Penelope Houston, but I would say this is a little mixed for me. (Neile)

eighteen stories down

Release info:

2003—WEA (Germany)—2564-60286-2

Availability:

Wide in Germany, or through Penelope Houston's website

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Penelope Houston—vocals, autoharp, melodica

Guest artists:

Billy Joe Armstrong (Green Day)—guitar, backing vocals
Joel Reader—bass, backing vocals
Danny Sullivan—drums
Pat Johnson—guitar, backing vocals, wah guitar, piano
Meletios Peppas—mandolin
Steven Strauss—string bass, bass
Kevin Donahue—accordion
Eliot Nemzer—guitar
Kevin Mummey—drums
Seth Asarnow—bandoneon
Bryan Higgens—French horn
Julian Smedley—violins, octave violin
Jeffrey Wood—organ
Dan Reiter—cello
Michael Pappenberg—guitar
Steve Bowman—drums, percussion
Marc Capelle—piano, trumpet, flugel horn, Wurlitzer, B-3 organ
Tim Mooney—drums
Richard Worn—double bass
Chuck Prophet—guitar
Jamie Lemoine—drum programming
Charlotte Caffey—guitar, backing vocals
Jane Wiedlin—backing vocals
Irina Mikhalova—backing vocals
Andy Stoler—bass
Steve Price—drums
Paula O'Rourke—bass
Eljohn Nelson—drums
Katharine Chase—bass
Jeff Jacks—bass
Rick Quisol—drums

Produced by:

Variously: Billie Joe Armstrong, Kevin Army, Penelope House, Phillip "Snakefinger" Litchman, Howard Johnston, Jeffrey Wood, Pat Johnson, Wally Sound

Comments:

This is an compilation of 14 of her best tracks, the first re-recorded but the rest in their original versions from her various albums, spanning her earliest work ("Corpus Christi" from her Avengers era) to four new songs (one of which is a John Cale cover). These range from her most melodic ballads like "voices" and "The Ballad of Happy Friday and Tiger Woods" through rockers like "Glad I'm a Girl" through the more recent wry "Tongue", and serve almost as an advanced greatest hits. These are all such great songs I'm happy to welcome them again into my collection, and actually enjoy having them together in one recording (usually I can't be bothered with similar compilations). The 3 new original songs are strong additions to her repertoire. Though I like all three, I'm particularly taken with "Soul Redeemer". The John Cale cover ("buffalo ballet") is also pretty cool and dreamy as seems to fit wonderfully in her style. (Neile)

snapshot ep

Release info:

2003—Flare Records—FRUSA-6

Availability:

See website for availability

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for Penelope Houston fans

Group members:

Penelope Houston—lead vocals

Guest artists:

The Maydays:
     Pat Johnson—guitars, piano, synthesizer, percussion
     Alec Palao—bass, organ, piano
     John Kent—drums
The Moore Brothers—backing vocals on 1 track
Willow Willow—backing vocals on 1 track

Produced by:

Alec Palao

Comments:

This is an ep of 5 cover songs: "Maybe We've Been Loving Too Long" by the Flying Machine, "I've Got a Feeling" by Pentangle, "It Makes No Difference" by The Band, "Love Machine" by the Shocking Blue, and "Though You Are Far Away" by Colin Bunstone (formerly of the Zombies). These covers are very Penelope-sounding takes on the tunes, all stamped with her singular voice and style. Great fun! (Neile)

The Pale Green Girl

with Pat Johnson

Release info:

2004—DBK Works—dbk—110

Availability:

See website for availability

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Penelope Houston—vocals, autoharp

Guest artists:

Pat Johnson—guitars, organ, piano, tambourine, bass, backing vocals
Katharine Chase—bass, backing vocals on 4 tracks
Paula O'Rourke—bass on 3 tracks
Jeff Jacks—bass on 3 tracks
Eljohn Nelson—drums on 8 tracks,BR> Ricky Quisol—drums on 3 tracks

Produced by:

Pat Johnson, Penelope Houston, and Wally Sound

Comments:

This is a really spare, indiefolk album. "Soul Redeemer" is an especially haunting track. (Neile)


Thanks to Mitch Pravatiner for work on this entry.

Why the ads?


Rock

121 - 160 of 268 entries

<<  10-Br  Br-Di  Di-Hi  Ho-Ma  Mc-Pe  Pe-St  St-Zo  >>

Click the bullet for speed (drop the menu) or the name for convenience (keep the menu)


>
Penelope Houston

>
Penelope Houston and Pat Johnson

>
Magdalen Hsu-Li

>
in june

>
Pi Jacobs

>
Susan James

>
Leah Jee

>
Jehovah Waitresses

>
Jonathan Incorporated

>
Rickie Lee Jones

>
Janis Joplin

>
Josette's Eye

>
Joydrop

>
Brenda Kahn

>
Rebekka Karijord

>
Karney

>
Kelly's Lot

>
Angélique Kidjo

>
Kindness

>
Kaki King

>
Kittywinder

>
Jann Klose

>
Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris

>
Lady Lamb the Beekeeper

>
Land of the Blind

>
Lanterna

>
Letters to Cleo

>
Lift

>
Maria Lithell

>
Luba

>
V.K. Lynne

>
Kirsty MacColl

>
Natalie MacMaster

>
Madder Rose

>
Maestro Subgum and the Whole

>
Wendy MaHarry

>
Michelle Malone

>
Aimee Mann

>
Charlotte Martin

>
Kat Maxwell

<<  10-Br  Br-Di  Di-Hi  Ho-Ma  Mc-Pe  Pe-St  St-Zo  >>


Other Genres...
the Ectophiles' Guide: * Guide Home* What's new* * Alphabetical* Genre* Commentator* Location* Random artist* Search* Contact the editors* Credits

DISCLAIMER: Comments and reviews in the Ectophiles' Guide are excerpted from the ecto mailing list or volunteered by members of the list. They are the opinions of music enthusiasts, not professional music critics.

Entry last updated 2012-05-16 01:12:59.
Please request permission if you wish to
reproduce any of the comments in the
Ectophiles' Guide in any context.

The Ectophiles' Guide to Good Music is copyright © 1996-2004 by the editors.
Individual comments are copyright © by their authors.
Web site design and programming copyright © 1998-2004 usrbin design + programming.
All rights reserved.