Jim & Jennie and the Pinetops | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Jim & Jennie and the Pinetops

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JIM & JENNIE AND THE PINETOPS

Nobody's going to mistake the Philly bluegrass band Jim & Jennie and the Pinetops for the legendary Bill Monroe or even a modern standard-bearer like the Del McCoury Band. But they stand out from their trad-oriented contemporaries in the alt-country scene like Dolly Parton in a room full of 13-year-old gymnasts. Few indie bluegrass singers can holler and keen like guitarist Jim Krewson and mandolinist Jennie Benford--and the band, rounded out by upright bassist Brendan Skwire and banjoist Brad Hutchison, kicks up some serious dust instrumentally too. None of the originals on their new Little Birdie (Overcoat/Phovsho), with the possible exception of Krewson's burning gospel number "Sing From the Back of the Church," quite ranks with the classics they perform by the Carter Family, Hazel Dickens, Earl Scruggs, and the Delmore Brothers, among others. But Jim and Jennie's joyful, occasionally strident harmonies make even the weakest material sound pretty convincing. The Pinetops' attention to period detail extends to their live setup: they all circle around a single microphone when they perform live. The McCoury Band does this too, and any acoustic nuance that may be lost is more than made up for in sparks generated by the onstage intimacy. Thursday, September 21, 9:30 PM, the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia; 773-227-4433.

PETER MARGASAK

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