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Hank Penny

Crazy Rhythm: The Standard Transcriptions – 2000 (Bloodshot Revival)

Reviewed by John Lupton

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CDs by Hank Penny

The fact that Hank Penny's name isn't as well remembered today as those of some of his contemporaries in Western Swing (notably Bob Wills and Milton Brown) is due in some part to his penchant for alienating the record companies, broadcasters and promoters he worked for during a career that began in the late 1930's and ended with his death in 1992. His insistence on doing things his way ended up costing him a lot of well-deserved renown and success.

The 30 previously-unreleased tracks here are drawn from a series of 1951 recordings made specifically for radio distribution, and they highlight Penny and his band at the top of their game. Penny's arrangements are tight and energetic (even on the slower romantic tunes) as they swing - emphasis on the 'swing' - through material that plays more to the Wild Side Of Life than most of the other Western Swing Bands did. It's hard to imagine Wills doing "Flamin' Mamie" or "Peroxide Blond." Fronting the band himself as lead singer, Penny may not have been as smooth as Tommy Duncan or Tex Williams, but at least on this set, his playful baritone never fails to carry and sell a tune. This is a terrific disc featuring a vastly underrated artist.