Along with Big Blue Hearts, Pinmonkey has a shot at taking something cool into the continually maligned country music mainstream. Relying on Michael McReynolds's reedy vocals, airtight, saccharine-free harmonies and well-written material sans schmaltz, only radio seems to stand between Pinmonkey and much larger gigs and audiences. Like Buddy Miller, Jim Lauderdale and others tagged "alt-country" who have approached the fringes of mainstream without much compromise, Pinmonkey is grounded in country, not pop. And if a young band is going to make it, I'd rather it be a one grounded in the Stanley Brothers, Harlan Howard and Hank Williams than in Celine Dion, Clint Black and Air Supply. The ironic thing is that under the country veneer, Pinmonkey is also pop...enough so, anyway, to reach audiences both in and out of the mainstream. On their third release, they finally sound like a band rather than a studio creation. Riveting harmonies drive catchy hooks home in a repertoire that ranges from bright folk-rock to cheatin' songs that truly bring the ache. Their version of Bruce Robison's "Wrapped" is as good as it gets, one of those songs that would fit equally well on mainstream and alternative radio. Ditto "Fallin' All the Time." Country music needs more subversives like Pinmonkey, working hard to slip the good stuff through the cracks.


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