On Blue Nite Lounge, his first studio album since 1994’s Do Right Man, Dan Penn serves up a musical smorgasbord that showcases his strengths as a singer and songwriter.
“Funky Folks” and “Down Around Birmingham” are Southern slices of R&B and soul, while Penn highlights his down-home philosophical side on “You Don’t Miss What You Never Had” (co-written with Al Kooper) and “Not Enough Time to Change.” In “A Memphis Melody”, Penn recalls the Memphis of the ’60s and ’70s and such contemporaries as Willie Mitchell, Booker T. & the MGs, and Chips Moman. It’s Penn’s version of Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away” for the 21st century.
Musically, Penn stretches out a little more than on previous albums. Much of Blue Nite Lounge was recorded outside a traditional recording studio. The basic tracks for half the songs were done at a cabin in Louisiana, creating a distinct vibe for the project. Penn uses everything from digital keyboards on the album’s opening tracks (“Where You Gettin’ It” and “Lookin’ For Love”) to pipe organ on the hymn “Holding On To God”, recorded in an Episcopal Church. “Goodbye London”, featuring Penn on acoustic guitar, will evoke comparisons to his performances on Moments From This Theatre, last year’s live album recorded with Spooner Oldham.
Penn throws a curveball on the album’s final track. “Rosemond Rain” is just that — the sound of rain falling on the cabin’s roof for 14 minutes, interrupted only by the sound of legendary record producer Jerry Wexler leaving a message on the answering machine.