When Penny Hill trotted onstage for the first time to meet the metro listening public, she deftly chose members of Norman’s phantom folksters Ghost of Monkshood as her backing band. Although she parted ways to craft her own identity before cutting her debut album, “Unbutton Your Heart,” some residual psychedelia still drips from her music, giving her coffeehouse vibe a wandering darkness that sets it apart from other singer/songwriters currently plucking away around town.
Mutual respect exists between Hill and her former band; the members of Monkshood even covered “Waiting,” off “Unbutton.” Listening to the two somber versions back-to-back is an interesting call-and-response, with Hill sticking with a clean, straight-ahead folk delivery, and Monkshood straying off into a cloud of haunting reverb, emerging with something more akin to a dark and dreamy Stevie Nicks.
That isn’t to say Hill is a chipper folksinger; a gloomy desperation pervades the record. Rather than getting bogged down in a depressive state, she settled into the mood as one would grab a cup of coffee to enjoy the looming darkness of an approaching thunderstorm.
“Unbutton Your Heart” is available on both on CD and cassette, thanks to another one of Hill’s fans, The Evangelicals’ Todd Jackson. He put her in touch with Slanty Shanty Records, which specializes in cassette releases. It was released last month.
Hill performs 8 p.m. Thursday at the Scissortail Social Space, 3012 N. Walker. For more information, visit http://www.myspace.com/pennyhillplays. “Charles Martin