It’d be easy to assume that this is solely a power trio, guitar-dominated affair based on the amped-up, fuzzed-out opening track “Delta Blues.” Yet the charm of the Pentones’ first studio album comes in the surprises chief songwriter/guitar slinger Mark Penton unveils along the way. He enlisted a total of nine guests, including harmonica howler Smoky Greenwell and vocalist Lynn Drury, to keep the arrangements shifting between genres. Pedal steel guitarist Dwight Breland adds a country-esque flair to “Jodie;” a horn section pops, spins and rolls on the swinging “I Earn the Right” that’s further fueled by the jazzy piano of Josh Paxton.
Penton is hardly the predictable songwriter either. On “Sorry (with Shrug),” he contritely apologizes to a jilted paramour but then switches it up by saying things change and life is now fine. “Too Many Second Lines” (love the acid-ey brass band intro) could be a funky Mardi Gras party track but is really about senseless deaths caused by violence, which often commence with a second line, hence the song’s title. “Delta Blues” is not about Mississippi Delta blues but being stranded in an airport.
Just so the focus isn’t on Penton’s jammy, bluesy licks or what the other sidemen are throwing down, he makes sure his slightly gritty vocals are front and center. The songs are really about the story lines—and isn’t that what good blues are really all about?