Penelope Houston by Richie Unterberger
Penelope Houston is one of the most shocking reincarnations from the original punk era. She was the lead singer of the San Francisco band the Avengers, one of the very first full-out American punk acts, opening for the Sex Pistols on the last show of their legendary U.S. tour. After the group broke up in 1979, Houston worked for a time with Howard Devoto and released a 1986 single fronting the short-lived 30-, finally releasing her debut album in 1988. To the shock of those who remembered her work with the Avengers, Houston had transformed into a folk-rock singer/songwriter with alternative rock sensibilities. As a solo act, her material emphasized acoustic textures, haunting melodies, and her gentle soprano voice. Popular as a performing act in San Francisco, she had trouble finding recording deals. Her similar, somewhat more fully produced second album did not appear until 1993 (a couple cassette-only releases mixing live and studio material appeared in the interim); subsequent efforts include 1994's Karmal Apple, 1996's Cut You, 1999's Tongue, and 2000's Once in a Blue Moon. Fans of singer/songwriters like Suzanne Vega, Shawn Colvin, and Christine Lavin looking for something similar but darker would do well to check Houston out.