The Alabama native has had a hand in writing a fair number of classic soul songs, and here he commits his versions of them to tape for the first time, recording, of course, in Muscle Shoals, with their fabulous house band, and a horn section including former Memphis Horn member Wayne Jackson. It's a tall order Penn sets himself, offering himself up for comparison with greats like James Carr, Aretha Franklin, and James and Bobby Purify, who have sung his songs -- and that's just the start of the list. However, he comes out very well, beginning with a quiet take on"The Dark End of the Street," coming across like a note to a secret lover, rather than a cry of pain. "It Tears Me Up" conveys the anguish,"You Left the Water Running" bounces in its pain, and "Do Right Woman Do Right Man" is advice to a friend, instead of Aretha's extra freedom cry for equal rights."I'm Your Puppet" becomes a sigh of resignation. Given tracks like that, the other songs will inevitably suffer by comparison, and, to be fair, "Memphis Women and Chicken" is little more than a throwaway. But even the lesser-known material from a craftsman-like Penn is head and shoulders above most of the competition, and "Zero Willpower," a song that he took 20 years to complete, has soul classic written all over it, as good as the greatest hits. Penn can't just write 'em, he can perform 'em too, in a manner as soulful as the greats, as this record shows. The man deserves to be an American musical icon.