DAN PENN AND BOBBY EMMONS
7:30 p.m., Cabe Theater, Hendrix College, Conway. Free.
Together with Elvis, several New Orleans rappers, this girl I used to date and maybe Loretta Lynn, Dan Penn deserves a spot in the pantheon of Southern accents. He speaks in a deep, dulcet drawl, usually in measured tones that stretch and quiet as he gets to the end of what he’s saying and then pick back up again, like waves of speech. Even though he’s spent most of his life immersed in rhythm and blues and soul music — he’s the architect of dozens of the greatest Southern soul songs of all-time, which is to say the greatest songs of all-time — in speech, he still sounds like he’s from rural Alabama.
When he first came on the scene in Muscle Shoals as a teen-ager, according to those who heard him sing, he was a white Ray Charles. Today, he’s semi-retired at 66, and he talks like it, sprinkling stories with the most inactive action verbs: “sashay to the barbecue place,” “meander to the studio,” “ease back down the road. When he sings now, he lends some hillbilly inflections to his tenor, and still, or at least several years back when he and frequent collaborator Spooner Oldham cut the live album “Moments from this Theater,” no other blue-eyed soul singer gets more emotion out of lyrics, even Charlie Rich in his Hi Records prime.
Tonight, with legendary Memphis session player Bobby Emmons (“Luckenbach Texas”) on the keys and Penn strumming the guitar, expect a laid back tour through all the old hits with a few new ones here and there.
Here’s a Dan Penn podcast to get you in the mood (there’s about a 15 second silence in the opening). Tracklist on the jump.
Download: Dan Penn podcast.mp3