Album Review: “Hangtown Fry” – John Malcom Penn

Album:Hangtown Fry” (BNR-CD223)
Performed by:John Malcom Penn.

Written by:
John Malcom Penn.
Released by:Blue Night Records, Hanover, Ill.
Cost: $14.95
Available from: Elderly Instruments, toll free 1-888-473-5810 or

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.

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