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John Pennell

All The Lonely: A Collection Of Songs By John Pennell – 2000 (JPE)

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

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CDs by John Pennell

Like many Nashville songwriters, John Pennell, isn't a household name, but you've probably heard his songs, especially the ones recorded by Alison Krauss. This was put together by Pennell as a way to release an album's worth of his favorite demo recordings.

Since these are demos, they're slanted toward pitching the song to another singer. That leaves the renditions here as blank-slate performances by various singers and session players for the most part, with Mandy Barnett's take on "No One Knows" as a notable exception. The arrangements are polite and understated and not unlike much of current country radio, just not as generically slick. Pennell's songs, however, are a cut above the ordinary, especially the poignant "Troubadour" and the bouncy swing of, "Heartaches To Forget."

Some Nashville veterans make appearances, including Buddy Emmons on steel guitar for "Half Mile Down The Road." The overall effect is a more cohesive one than this batch of demos would seem to invite, making it a pleasant listen and a perfect advertisement for Pennell's songs.