It’d be easy to assume that this is solely a power trio, guitar-dominated affair based on the amped-up, fuzzed-out opening track “Delta Blues.” Yet the charm of the Pentones’ first studio album comes in the surprises chief songwriter/guitar slinger Mark Penton unveils along the way. He enlisted a total of nine guests, including harmonica howler Smoky Greenwell and vocalist Lynn Drury, to keep the arrangements shifting between genres. Pedal steel guitarist Dwight Breland adds a country-esque flair to “Jodie;” a horn section pops, spins and rolls on the swinging “I Earn the Right” that’s further fueled by the jazzy piano of Josh Paxton. Penton is hardly the predictable songwriter either. On “Sorry (with Shrug),” he contritely apologizes to a jilted paramour but then switches it up by saying things change and life is now fine. “Too Many Second Lines” (love the acid-ey brass band intro) could be a funky Mardi Gras party track but is really about senseless deaths caused by violence, which often commence with a second line, hence the song’s title. “Delta Blues” is not about Mississippi Delta blues but being stranded in an airport. Just so the focus isn’t on Penton’s jammy, bluesy licks or what the other sidemen are throwing down, he makes sure his slightly gritty vocals are front and center. The songs are really about the story lines—and isn’t that what good blues are really all about?” - DAN WILLGING


  REVIEW Mark & The Pentones  We Only Drink at Work  Holding down the “early shift,” preceding Big Al Carson six nights a week at The Funky Pirate on Bourbon Street, Mark Penton and his eponymous group The Pentones have built up a following in their own right. Quiet and low-key, Penton doesn’t get a lot of ink or air time but it would not be an exaggeration to rate him among the top 10 lead guitarists in a city that has no shortage of them. Whether leading his own group or backing another artist – like he did on Smoky Greenwell’s 2008 Between Iraq and a Hard Place – Penton can be counted on to give a stellar performance. Anyone who can make his axe sing like the late, great Duane Allman gets my vote. On this 11-track CD, recorded live at The Funky Pirate, Penton and band mates Eddie Christmas (drums, percussion) and Thomas McDonald (bass, backup vocals) offer up a smooth mix of slow bluesy numbers and lively up-tempo arrangements. They are, in most cases, long enough for all three musicians to stretch their musical legs and display their respective talents. And, in addition to being an extraordinarily gifted musician and vocalist, Penton is also an accomplished songwriter with four cleverly worded original compositions. “Sunday Funnies,” the opening track, likens the song’s protagonist to a comic strip character (“I feel like a joke / I spend all my money and you love me till I’m broke”). Nicely done covers include “Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley,” Neil Young’s “Old Man,” a medley of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” and The Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post,” and a medley of classic Mardi Gras Indian songs (“Big Chief,” “Hey Pocky Way” and “Treme Song”). And, if “Don’t Leave Nothing Behind”—another Penton original—doesn’t convince you that he is one of the best guitarists around, nothing will. His solo at the song’s end is a killer! ” - Dean M. Shapiro

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