Penelope Swales is in hiding. She must be; otherwise, she would be a household name by now. Or maybe her music just hits home a little hard and true for the masses. Penelope is a funny, fearless and inciteful lyricist. She is a talented musician with a characterful voice. Her music portrays her passions, her humour, her honesty and her integrity. I first became aware of Penelope's work when this album received some airplay on its release in 1997.
Homemade Wine is Penelope's third album. The engineering and production deserve a mention here as both are flawless and really let the music itself take centre stage. A treat from start to finish, it was hard to choose only a few songs to share but the opening track, Swallow, struck a chord with me. A song about the search for a place and a person to call home and the frustration of being unable to do so as time and youth pass. The "storm tossed swallow" analogy fits the narrative perfectly.
"And y’know, I just wanna go home
But I have no such destination,
Just a vague location in mind
I’m tired and I can feel it’s time
I’ve still so far to go til I can make it mine "
The song is beautiful lyrically and musically and, like much of Penelope's work, evokes joy and solemn contemplation in equal measure.
"And y’know darlin’ I’m longin’ to see your face
Not just for a festival or a weekend
But to be having you all ‘round the place
I long to be sitting strong and stable
At my very own kitchen table
And watchin’ you walking in
Singin’ hello darlin’, how ya been?
But for now, I’ll just rest in the sun like a storm-tossed swallow
I’m still so far away, and my migration path sways
But I’ll get there, one of these tomorrows
I’ll rest in a stranger’s house like a storm-tossed swallow
While inside me the need and the urgency grow."
I Thought Judge Dredd Was A Cartoon Character is a commentary on police restraint. We all know that our police forces attract only the best and brightest. This is nowhere more true than in Victoria where police rarely resort to the use of firearms even when confronted with such serious offences as Fare Evasion, Hesitation With Intent To Loiter and Failure To Stock The Glove Box With Gloves. Here Penelope's dry humour takes a darker turn; mockery is an effective weapon too.
A few years ago I found myself having to drive from New England to Brisbane then Sydney in one day (don't ask). I'd picked up Homemade Wine from the post office a couple of days before (Penelope kindly ran me off a copy after my young daughter accidentally destroyed the original; thanks P!). So it just happened to be the only CD in the car for that long trip and I still had it on repeat a week later. That's the kind of music Penelope creates.
Almond Eyes pulls the listener into a dark lament that highlights Penelope's versatility and ability to emotionally captivate her audience. She writes with such feeling, no more so it seems than when from experience.