Jim & Jennie and the Pinetops

Little Birdie

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While Jim & Jennie and the Pinetops' self-titled debut (released as Jim and Jennie and the Pine Barons) was promising, it was also ragged and hurried. That's changed with 2000's Little Birdie, where Jim Krewson (vocals/guitar), Jennie Bedford (vocals/mandolin), Brad Hutchinson (banjo), and Brendan Skwire (upright bass) more effectively blend the bluegrass tradition they revere with contemporary sensibilities. So while there are traditionals (the title track, "Red Rocking Chair") alongside classics (the Carter Family's "No Telephone in Heaven") and originals (Krewson's "Sing from the Back of the Church"), the package fits together with a focus on melody and craft. Jim and Jennie are aware of their responsibility to bluegrass music, and they respect it with their lineup, their rich harmonies and singing, and Little Birdie's raw recording. But since they're often found performing these songs in grimy rock clubs, there's an element of the Pinetops' music that's purely melodic and downright catchy. To put it another way, you don't have to be a bluegrass geek to like Little Birdie. Bedford's vocals are impressive throughout the record and Krewson is no slouch either, particularly on the high notes in "Cannonball." The gentle rollick of "Reuben" is a highlight, as is the sad ballad "Telephone" and busier numbers like "Heavenly Light" and "I'm Feeling Fine." With more depth in their sound and some lively playing and singing, Jim & Jennie and the Pinetops' second album is their breakout moment.

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