Rawness and emotion are what strikes you when you hear what Ali Penney and The Money Makers play for you. Penney’s husky, soulful voice is matched perfectly by the smooth sounds of the Money Makers’ blues.
She may consider herself a pianist first and this shows in her skills on the keys, but the honest vulnerability in Ali Penney’s vocals has won her an award for her singing.
“This girl plays piano like an 80-year-old black guy – she’s gotta lotta soul,” said Freddy King’s right-hand-man, guitarist Andrew ‘Junior Boy’ Jones.
She has played for and supported some of the best; Lynwood Slim, Johnnie Johnson, Kid Bangham, Lloyd Jones, Andrew Junior Boy Jones, Todd Sharpville, Chris Cain, Lucinda Williams, Cephas and Wiggins and The Tailgaitors. She was invited to sit in and play with Walter 'Wolfman' Washington and the Palm Court Orchestra in New Orleans. She has also played with Australian legends The Hippos, Supro, Fiona Boyes, Chris Wilson, LiL’ Fi, Bridie King, Marissa Quigley and many more. She is currently touring with The Cyril B. Bunter Band in their 41st Anniversary Tour.
More than anything else, Penney is a band leader and as lead singer of The Money Makers, she knows how to put on a show – a funny and entertaining show – and play songs which get the audience toe-tapping and dancing.
Completing The Money Makers are guitarist and singer Matt Ross,Mike ‘Duck’ Rix on either bass guitar or double bass and ‘shuffle king’ drummer Ross ‘Rosscoe’ Clark.
Most of Penney’s songs are upbeat, but wicked, all delivered live with a witty tale, which gets the audience laughing and ready to have fun.
Nominated for several awards at the 2012 Australian Blues Awards at Goulburn Blues Festival, Penney took out the best female vocalist, following up The Money Maker’s best band win in 2010.
It was a dream start to 2014 for Australia’s” Blues Sweetie”, Ali Penney and her band The Money Makers with the news that they had won four awards in the prestigious Australian Blues Music Awards. Ali Penney and the Money Makers swept the 2014 Chain Awards picking up Duo or Group of the Year, Album of the Year for And On It Goes, Best Female Vocal and Ali shared the Producer of the Year Award with And On It Goes co-producer Phil Punch. And if that wasn’t enough, Ali has just toured with US West Coast harmonica supremo Lynwood Slim and Brazilian guitar ace Igor Prado on their recent Australian dates.
In her career, she has toured throughout the eastern states and played at most of the Australian blues and jazz festivals, including Gympie Muster, Broadbeach, Thredbo, Bridgetown, Wangaratta and Noosa and with The Money Makers they have played festivals in Goulburn, Broadbeach, Thredbo and Sydney, plus represented Sydney in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. They just love sharing their soulful blues with a touch of funk and boogie.
Ali Penney has released three albums – "Temptation" with The Money Makers in 2010 and "Wait A Minute" in late 2011 with Dave Blanken and the West Coast hipsters, the Vibrolators. Recorded at Poon’s Head Studios in Fremantle, "Wait A Minute" reached fourth place on the Australian Blues Music Charts and stayed in the charts for over 12 months. She has just released her new EP "And On It Goes", recorded with legendary producer Phil Punch at Free Energy Device Studios.
Ali is currently recording her new CD with the Money Makers and she can't wait to share the new songs!
The gig was at the unlikely, strange-but-true venue of The Roseville Club, a pleasant, comfortable, unassuming digger’s digs, well north of the coathanger and what’s generally conceived of as the city’s cultural limits. If it wasn’t for Eastern Lounge, Keogh’s eclectic, seconf-Friday-of-the-month musical programme, Roseville would be almost a ghost town, with but the rustle of the breeze blowing through innumerable, stately trees; across tennis courts and shimmering pools; through the blonde hair of blue-eyed private school girls, not quite ne’er-been-kissed. Keogh saves Roseville from its stifling, soul-destroying, suburban self.
Penney and co is the latest in a long line of hardcore musicians, of almost every stripe, who’ve played this space. And her brand of shuffling boogie is most welcome, with its New Orleans swagger, blasts on ‘Hammond’ (actually Ali’s trusty, versatile, flame-red, Nord Electro 4), hypnotic beat (courtesy of Foreday Riders’ legendary percussive backbone, Rosscoe Clark, who looks just a little like a dramatically-downsized John Candy), punchy bass from Mike Rix and blistering, shiny guitar, with the style and sting of a Santana, courtesy of George Rigatos. It’s a dream team of musos that isn’t just virtuosic (no, it’s not hyperbolic) in their own respective rights, but which plays like a band, with profound sympathy for each other’s contributions and, when teamed with Penney’s swag of sassy songs, makes for an evening of sweet, but saucy sounds, informed by Penney’s husky vocal warmth. She has a distinctive voice lyrically, too, and for those who choose to accept the mission of listening critically, there are wry rewards.
The set began with the laid-back, slightly melancholy and, if I’m any judge, utterly candid And On it Goes, a tale of everyday treachery, a document of deceit, and the heartache it brings: ‘people are strange, don’t know why; she’ll look you in the eye and take your guy’. It put me in mind of (the) Atlanta Rhythm Section and the easy, southern lope of hits like So Into You. It’s a laidback, resigned, ‘ah well, that’s life!’, philosophical kind of sound. Chilled. It’s propelled by understated syncopation from Penney’s rhythm section, jazzy rhythm guitar which breaks out into a tasty lead break and mellow electric piano from Penney, who takes a complementary solo. There’s even a cross-rhythmic rap sensibility in the way the verses are delivered. This one, given enough exposure, has hit written all over it, to my ears, though probably on the soul or r’n’b charts, as much as the blues ones.
The aptly-named Funky embarks with an electric piano riff that’s almost clavinet-like. It could be Brother Ray warming-up the keys. It then explodes into a tight drum ’n’ bass nexus overlaid with jangly rhythm guitar. It sounds like the missing track from Tarantino’s Jackie Brown. Penney might be upbeat on stage, but her songs would seem to betray many a dark night of the soul and this one’s no exception. Of course, it’s not without a sense of humour. ‘My mama’s dead; my papa don’t love me; my brother’s in gaol and my sister’s a junkie.’ No wonder she just wants to get funky. Like And On it Goes, it has a classy kind of commercial potential that, I trust, might be substantively realised. Crazy ‘Bout Ya, which follows, is bluesier: a straightforward, finger-snappin’ shuffle that puts Penney’s ‘piana’ right out front. Again, Rigatos makes good on a lusty lead break and the whole band hammers out a big finish.
Fight In The Dog revives the funked-up feel, with a dirty, dark alley bass groove that conjures shady deals and satin-suited pimps. Rigatos rocks out yet again, there’s crisp snare and open hi-hat from ‘Stinger’ Clark and the whole sassy shebang is deftly punctuated by Penney. There was something a little more rock ’n’ roll (No, No, No, I think, about an insensitive not-so-new age bastard that brought another date, on a date); a sad ballad of yearning (Devil On My Back), which is what comes of love found in two places at once, that has the patina of a sixties classic and the story of Penney’s love life, I’m Number One In The Number Two Business. a song that recalled something of the writing style of Jenny Morris. Come to think of it, Penney’s vocal timbre and range is in a very similar ballpark, which is no bad thing. In any case, it’s another example of a catchy (in a way that sneaks up on you), danceable tune, with trademark smartarse lyrical motif, not to mention a lot of ooh-ing and ah-ing in the faux orgasmic manner of Meg Ryan, as featured in that ubiquitous scene from When Harry Met Sally.
By this time, Penney & her Moneymakers were really earning their keep: cooking’, with gas; The Stinger primally pommelling the toms and Rigatos living up to his dread-head with searing, rock-god guitaring. All this and more, including a couple of duets with Matt Ross on Jimmy Vaughan’s Leaving It All Up To You (a down-home country blues that teeters on the edge of rock ’n’ roll; no surprise, having been penned by Dewey Terry & Don Harris, circa ’57) and Miss You So (which, if you’re of a certain age, you might remember from Little Anthony & The Imperials). Both songs are sweetly nostalgic, hopelessly romantic and rapport between the two singers spinning yarns of heartache and heartbreak was palpable; even, dare I say, giving off a few sparks.
Somewhere in there, too, was Nobody Really and the swingin’ Heels Were Too High, both of which featured some twangy guitar licks and Spontaneous Combustion, a snappy number wishing one’s insignificant other would go up in a puff of smoke or, at the very least, have the decency to get up and go live with his mother. This, too, gave Rigatos yet more room to stretch out, backed by Penney, Stinger and Rix’ chug-a-lug boogie.
AP & The MMs are one hot outfit. It’s only been an item for about five years, but in that time the group’s won the NSW Blues Challenge, which primed it to represent the Sydney Blues Society at the International Blues Challenge, in Memphis. That was 2010 and it hasn’t stood still, winning Best Band the same year at the Australian Blues Music Awards. Just two years later, Ali picked off Best Female Artist. Three albums, an EP and, just this year, four more awards.