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Current Events Give New Meaning to Michael Penn Song

Of the Oakland Press

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Singer-songwriter Michael Penn released his song “Walter Reed” in 2005, on his critically praised, self-released album “Mr. Hollywood Jr., 1947.”

And it’s safe to say that given the recent revelations about poor care for veterans at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., there’s a little more interest in the song as it reappears on a reissue of that album as well as the new compilation “Palms & Runes, Tarot & Tea: The Michael Penn Collection.”

“Well, it doesn’t feel any different to me,” Penn, the brother of actors Sean Penn and the late Christopher Penn and husband of fellow musician of Aimee Mann, says with a laugh, “but now maybe people will know what the hell I’m talking about.

“I always sort of looked at Walter Reed as this sort of iconic thing where, if America as a person, or a being, has a hospital, that’s their hospital and that (reflects) how the country cares for its people. It has that kind of iconic quality to me.”

Compiling “Palms & Runes” gave Penn, 48, a rare opportunity to survey his career from the 1989 release of his debut album, “March” — which featured the Top 20 hit “No Myth” — to his present as an artist who’s left the major label world to pursue an independent path. He has no complaints, and, in fact, is pleased to still be able to tour and record.

“When I started out I had absolutely no expectations of any kind at all,” he says. “The kind of music I was doing was not like anything that was on the radio, and I never expected anything to get on the radio.

“If I had any hope at all, it was that I’d be some sort of odd cult artist making records that were rooted in a fairly classic tradition of songwriting, which was kind of going by the wayside at the time I started.”

Michael Penn performs at 8 p.m. Tuesday (May 8th) at The Ark, 316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor. Tickets are $20. Call (734) 761-1451 or visit www.theark.org.

Web Site: www.theark.org

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