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Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009

Larry Penn

War Stories (Cookie Man Music)

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In an era when most singer-songwriters rarely travel farther then the distance between their bedroom and their computer, I have to salute the work of 81-year-old Larry Penn, whose new CD, War Stories, begs to be heard by those patriots still brave enough to carry the flag of the common man.

In "Army Life," Penn sings of disillusionment, regret and loneliness, with each verse ending in "Gee, mom, I want to come back home." Entrenched deep in the lore of World War II, Penn reminds us of those who made it back in "Dewey Pratt," whose memories of D-Day linger on, even as he fiddles late into the night.

Bridging almost 100 years of stories in song, Penn carries the torch of World War I in the memorable if seldom heard "Stand To Your Glasses Steady" and "A Cannon for Washington Square," where he sings, "A cannon for Washington Square, my friend, in place of the faces we sacrificed then, bought for the days and deeds and then men… a cannon for Washington Square."

While this album balances a slew of great original and traditional material, it sparkles with all the gore and glory that is war, culminating in the unforgettable minor-tinged "Sins of the Father," a haunting reminder in the spirit of Phil Ochs and Woody Guthrie.

Thank you, Larry Penn: You've earned your stamps and paid your dues-may we honor your service by courting your muse!