Lee Penn Sky,
Prelude to Hindsight
(Parker's, 2006)

Experiencing a life-changing event makes you look at everything differently. After songwriter Lee Penchansky recovered from being hit by a car during a Good Samaritan highway stop, he transformed himself into Lee Penn Sky, songwriter and solo performer. Prelude to Hindsight is his first album released under that identity. The disc includes 13 folk-rock songs that use simple chord progressions and obvious rhymes to complete their stories. But hey, that technique worked pretty well for Paul McCartney. It seems to be working for Lee Penn Sky as well.

Lee supplies the vocals and plays acoustic guitar for each original song here. His style is representative of the no-nonsense middle class. His website says his voice is reminiscent of Van Morrison. Before I saw that reference, I was thinking of a milder, slightly more melodic and less manic version of Joe Cocker or Joe Walsh. He is accompanied by a few musicians who put the icing on the musical cake, providing the services of mandolin, accordion, occasional drums or percussion, guitars and keyboards on demand. The songs, all written by Lee, are "Do As I Say," "Valentine's Day," "I'm Spinning," "Roll On," "A Ticket Home," "Nebraska," "Michigan," "Daydreaming," "This Valley Will Burn," "One & the Same," "Carolina Sings Softly," "Best Will Show," "Willie & Poncho." Settings are most often the American Midwest or Great Plains, since Lee grew up in Michigan but now lives in Idaho. Even campfire guitar players will recognize the chords in the first passing, but that doesn't mean the tunes are trite. Why shouldn't contemporary music be both easy to play and interesting to hear at the same time?

And yes, the rhymes are uncomplicated. Take for example the last verse of "Roll On" -- "I'll take comfort from the sound of my guitar / And the fact we stare up at the same stars / And I know that someday you'll return / Till then for you I yearn." Then there's "Michigan," which I find to have the catchiest melody and lyrics. Just about each stanza ends with "But one thing I know is true / My heart lies in Michigan with you." Those lines swirl around me for hours after I hear them. And I don't even know anyone who lives in the Wolverine State that I can direct the sentiment to.

If there's a sound that comes directly from the plains and the prairie, Lee Penn Sky's music may be the best example of it. Or maybe listeners can simply connect emotionally to Lee as he so completely expresses the anguish of living in one place while the people who mean the most to him are in quite another. At the same time, he seems satisfied with his Western fate -- except for a misguided trip down to Nebraska. The bottom line is: these songs are in every aspect simple, but are definitely not simplistic; and they grow on you the more you listen to them. The composition style is folk with a Western brand on it. The tunes are memorable enough to reverberate in your brain for the rest of the night, if not the rest of the week. Kudos to Lee Penn Sky, and here's hoping we hear even more from him soon.

[ visit the artist's website ]

review by
Corinne H. Smith

7 June 2008

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new