Amazon reviews

***** My first exposure to John Malcolm Penn's songwriting was hearing "California" perform 'Moonlight Motor Inn' almost 20 years ago. Since then I've heard others cover it but never quite reaching the quiet despair and heartache that Mr. Penn conveys in his original recording.

There are plenty of gems on this album, too. 'Liberty Hill', about the arrest of author Upton Sinclair for reading the Declaration of Independence at a labor rally, or 'Boomtown', about the rise and fall of a company town, tell stories that connect with the listener.

If you like John McCutcheon or Tom Chapin; the writing of Si Kahn, you'll love this album.

Long Beach Press Telegram

By Tim Grobaty, Columnist

Posted: 02/07/2012 07:46:41 PM PST

Updated: 02/07/2012 08:42:07 PM PST

SOUNDS OF THE '70s: Our electro- mail is packed with old Long Beach music this week, and we couldn't be giddier. We feel like a kid again.


PENN AGAIN: Next, we visit John Penn - now John Malcolm Penn - who was a huge Long Beach favorite back in the '70s, when he played regularly at the old Hindquarter Restaurant and Huck Finn's bar, both in Naples.


He was a co-founder, with Steve Redfearn (who also booked the Hindquarter), of the tragically defunct Cal State Long Beach Banjo, Fiddle & Guitar Festival, which featured stars like Jimmy Buffett, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Jerry Garcia's Old & In the Way, Guy Clark, Doc Watson and Rodney Crowell during its years on the campus.


Penn has also lived a life without needing a day job, playing guitar full time and performing regularly, especially around his current home of La Quinta.

He has recorded regularly, too, but his career is going up a notch with the release of his latest, his debut on the prestigious Blue Night label.

"Hangtown Fry" is the title, and it includes some of his great songs, especially his biggest and best, "Moonlight Motor Inn."

No Depression

***** A quick listen to the first track “Moonlight Motor Inn”, was all I needed to hear to know that this album was going on the iPod. Thanks for the great music and I can't get that "Tumco Mine" out of my head!

Mountain - Democrat

Mountain Democrat   March 1, 2012

It isn’t often that someone comes up with songs about your community and has them released in a CD album. This recently happened when Blue Night Records released an album called “Hangtown Fry,” by a California singer and songwriter named John Malcom Penn.


The album has a dozen songs: “Moonlight Motor Inn,” “Mentryville,” “With These Wings,” “Tumco Mine,” “Hangtown Fry,” “Joaquin Rides Again,” “Diamond Springs,” “S.S. Catalina,” “Picacho Mine,” “Red Hill Mine,” “Liberty Hill” and “Old Plank Road.”

Penn not only wrote all the songs, but sings all the vocal parts and plays all the instruments, including steel and nylon-string guitar, banjo, mandolin, bass, ukulele, slide guitar, slide banjo and Nashville high-strung guitar.


Each song has a story with it.

For example, “Mentryville” is about Charles Alexander Mentry’s discovery of a commercially viable oil reserve in the hills above the Santa Clarita Valley; “With These Wings” pays tribute to world-famous aviatrix Jacqueline Cochrane; “Joaquin Rides Again” is a story about Joaquin Murietta, the man thought to be the original Zorro; “S.S. Catalina” was the ship that carried tourists to Avalon on Catalina Island for years and “Old Plank Road,” tells the tale of a long gone road between San Diego and Phoenix.

“Hangtown Fry” tells both the tales about the miner that got rich and the condemned man who ordered the dish: “You ease in some eggs, big slice of bacon; Slip in the oysters, get the pan to shakin’; Roll ‘em up and flip that omelet, to the sky; You’ve got the Hangtown Fry, the Hangtown Fry.”

“Diamond Springs” is more a ballad about a miner and his girl, Annette, who is the fairest in Diamond Springs (and much fairer than the girls in Mud Springs who “use pine cones to brush their hair”).


Penn is a journeyman folk singer and a gifted songwriter.

He has quietly been writing and performing his unrivaled style of music for years in the Southern California area. His music is aimed squarely at the listener who enjoys truly original songs that are unique, introspective, at times funny and always thought provoking.

Driftin' River debuts at #10 on Folk DJ-L charts

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