Issued in 1999 through Phovsho, Jim and Jennie and the Pine Barons was the first incarnation of Jim & Jennie and the Pinetops. As a primer for the group's contemporary take on traditional bluegrass, its jumble of originals and remakes incorporates the earnest playing, unchecked vocals, and general exuberance of their later recordings. Still, it's clear that they haven't quite figured out their mix of old and new. Jennie Bedford's high wail is comparable in passion to the great bluegrass singers of yore, particularly on the Carter Family's "Lulu Walls" or her own "Joy Bells," which also breaks into a lively three-part harmony at the end. And Jim Krewson's songwriting is at least aesthetically nearby the traditionals ("Georgie Buck," "Bowling Green") and covers. But throughout the Pine Barons are on overdrive, and not just in a rapid-fire bluegrass sense. They don't give the solos proper space, and the vocals, though always rousing, occasionally suggest approximation of the traditional sounds instead of a channeling of them. This slight distinction doesn't seem to be an issue for Jim & Jennie or their cohorts, and it won't be a factor for alt-country fans, who will have heard the same thing with albums by Freakwater and the like. But it needs to be noted, since it might taint the singular piety of bluegrass purists.
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus