Man on the Side

The other singer-songwriter out to make a dent in the industry is Ian Penn, whom I first caught at a gig in Saguijo a few weeks ago. Signed under artist Clementine’s independent label Lilystars Records, Penn came out with a six-song EP, “Wild Abandon,” and launched it Monday night at Boiler Room along C. Palanca in Makati.

The 22-year-old Pampanga native was fed a steady diet of Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger and Neil Young when he was younger. Naturally, the ghosts of his folk heroes inform his own music. Wild Abandon is a gem of a record, one that you rarely get to hear these days from musicians who aren’t senior citizens.

The recording is sparse and almost hypnotic; Penn’s sometimes joyful, sometimes mournful wailings float above the gentle strumming of the acoustic guitar. His use of the harmonica is also a nice touch. With the songs playing in the background, the imagery almost paints itself: an idyllic summer afternoon in the country, sunlight filtering through mango trees, a view of green fields from a hammock. This is back-to-roots music for people tired of the usual and the overproduced. Dylan and co. would be proud.

As a live performer, Penn has a singing style that could get a bit tedious after a while, but I’m not too worried as I know he is still evolving. At such a young age, he has already proven he’s willing to do the work and write original music, instead of getting by rehashing the work of others who came before him, and for this he has earned my respect. I can only look forward to his growth as an artist in the years ahead. — BM, GMA News

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