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Pinmonkey goes well beyond its name

Johnny D's, Somerville, Mass., Aug. 20, 2003

By Jeffrey B. Remz

SOMERVILLE, MA - A pin monkey is a guy working at a bowling alley who sets up the pins for the next frame.

While that job may be repetitious and not too exciting, there's a band out of Nashville, Pinmonkey, who serve up a brand of country rock with bluegrass thrown in that is far from routine and boring.

Pulling into the Boston area to a crowd of perhaps 50, Pinmonkey isn't in the mainstream of what's going in Nashville these days. The quartet released their self-titled BNA debut last fall, garnering some airplay with the uptempo country rock of "Barbed Wire and Roses." Earlier last year, they also released their own album again with country rock and bluegrass prominent.

Michael Reynolds live is a strong lead singer as he was on CD. He's more than the good looking leader. Pinmonkey tended to be in higher gear musically most of the time, ("Slow Train Comin'," "Every Time It Rains") but Reynolds also was effective on ballads, particularly "Augusta," one of the best songs all evening.

The ace in the hole is Dobroist Chad Jeffers. There is no other guitar in the band, save some acoustic mainly from Reynolds. Jeffers (his brother, Michael is on bass) is, in effect the lead guitarist, sometimes treating his instrument as a lead guitar. He's a strong player and added a healthy set of backing harmonies as well.

While Pinmonkey maintained a high level of energy throughout the 80-minute set, the show started to wander a bit towards the end after playing "Barbed Wire" and their second single, a decidedly different remake of Cyndi Lauper's "I Drove All Night."

Instead of being a crack country rock band with bluegrass influences, the boys started morphing into a bar band mentality.

Playing "Honky Tonk Woman" and the Hag's "Mama Tried" with their merchandise guy and road manager on backing vocals indicated that. Not that they did a bad job, but why not have played a few more of their songs, which certainly merit a listener's attention.

But still, the overall effect of the evening was that while Pinmonkey may not be the most unique band out there, they also are playing of country that just isn't heard all that much these days. And given Pinmonkey's abilities, that's too bad.

Area singer Kerri Powers, who released a fine CD, "you, me and a redhead," a few years ago opened with a strong set. She's a very strong singer with a slew of good songs. Powers could have displayed a bit more contact and connection with the audience, but at least she demonstrated a hefty dose of musical talent.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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