Veteran songwriter Dan Penn announces new album

Dan Penn
Photograph by Ed McNees

He has a fantastic story – if James Brown is Soul Brother number one, you can make a very credible case for Dan Penn being number two, the Alabama native has had a hand in writing a fair number of classic soul songs.

The late 1960s were the golden age of Soul music. In studios located in Muscle Shoals, Memphis, predominantly the well renowned Fame studios, legends like Aretha Franklin, Percy Sledge and Otis Redding were recording songs that proved timeless.

Many of those classics came from Dan Penn. Penn’s responsible for some of soul music’s mega-hits in the 1960s, songs he co-wrote include ‘Do Right Woman,’ ‘Dark End Of The Street,’ ‘I’m Your Puppet’ ‘A Woman Left Lonely’ and so many others.

It’s no understatement to see why he is regarded as one of the most accomplished songwriters in modern times, with the songs he has written and co-written covered by the likes of Janis Joplin, Elton John,  Solomon Burke, Aretha Franklin, Percy Sledge, Bobby Womack, Diana Ross and many more.

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.

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.

Penn wrote songs with some of his closest collaborators for this outing  – people like Wayne Carson, Spooner Oldham, Gary Nicholson, Carson Whitsett, Will McFarlane, Bucky Lindsey, Buzz Cason, and the Cate Brothers. They are all the kind of writers who bring 100% soul with them, and have been working on the songwriting craft for most of their lives.

After writing the songs and cutting good demos, a top-flight full-tilt studio band was gathered to start the recording sessions in Muscle Shoals and Nashville. It included Milton Sledge (drums), Michael Rhodes (bass), Will McFarlane (guitar) and Clayton Ivey (keyboards), along with a full horn section. As with everything Penn has ever recorded, he looks to what each player can offer to make sure every note means something.

Artist’s website:

‘Living On Mercy’: