Penelope Houston

Once in a Blue Moon

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Released on Houston's own label, this 15-song rarities collection combines six previously unreleased demos and outtakes with nine songs taken from the out-of-print European CDs Silk Purse (1993) and Crazy Baby (1994). Five of the newly issued items are songs demoed for her Tongue album in 1996, but never released, while "(Velvet) Things" was recorded in 1998 at her last Warner Bros. session. This wouldn't be considered among the more essential Houston and is probably not intended as such. It's just a decent, modest group of tunes that are hard to come by, particularly in the U.S. It also gives her the chance to release some compositions that she did not write, such as her cover of Alex Chilton's "Take Care" and a few songs by multi-instrumentalist, producer, and frequent Houston collaborator Pat Johnson. Once in a Blue Moon has her expected sturdy bittersweet folk-pop-rock, with little in the way of eye-opening surprises, but nothing that disgraces her discography either. Generally it's most interesting when it ventures a bit outside standard contemporary folk-rock arrangements, as on "Take Care," which puts her autoharp and swirling ghostly vocal harmonies to the fore; the uncommonly poppy and peppy "Black Eyed Peas"; and "Nina," with its traditional ballad-like tune and tasty mandolin.

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