Let’s hear it for the mark of quality where elegance and eloquence have been applied in equal quantity in that search for the most effective emotional transference between a performer and her audience. Let’s hear it therefore for Penny Black for, with just her voice and her piano to illustrate her five distinctly confessional songs, she is clearly not attempting to hide anything other than her obvious talent.
First on the list is “High Mountain” that, although a pretty straight rework of a song released under her previous identity of Colette McKendrick, seems curiously distant as if its original context has been diluted and time shifted into the present. Similarly, the bleak breakup lyrics of “Octaves” strongly suggest a certain catharsis more personal than you would need for mere entertainment. That said, the playful wordplay, such as “…two octaves in a tuneless heart” found within the bars of the song further reinforces the aforementioned elegance that is the trademark of Ms Black. However, the most interesting song – for me at least – is “Klara Polzl” where Ms Black fires the generational bullet at Hitler’s mother and the metaphorical bullet at the mistakes of the past. You won’t find many songwriters using such source material for inspiration today.
“Me and The Beast” is, for the most part, a very personal EP that makes for a refreshing change from the trivial remanufactured drama so beloved of the music business these days and, without belittling the talent or honesty of Penny Black, it would make a very appropriate accompaniment to the strawberry cheesecake should your heart be unexpectedly dumped upon your sleeve by circumstance. If you take the anguish out of the occasion, so to speak, then you are also left with something unusual as a conclusion. These five songs would make the basis for a rather dark stage musical.
The EP is available from ITunes.