I'm a sucker for a good country band with grit. Pin Monkey combines the rootsy rocking of The Gourds or Reckless Kelly with the vocal harmonies reminiscent of the Flying Burrito Brothers.
Big Shiny Cars consists of both covers and original tunes. Pin Monkey has excellent taste in songwriters. Tunes from Matraca Berg, Dolly Parton, Kieran Kane, Bruce Robison, Davis Raines, and Joy Lynn White join originals by Pin Monkey members Michael Reynolds and Chad Jeffers. Other core members of the band include longtime Radney Foster guitarist Mike McAdam, Michael Jeffers on bass, and Mike Crouch on drums. For Big Shiny Cars Pin Monkey added Mark Bright on acoustic guitar, Steven King and Eric Holt on keyboards, and cameos by Rusty Young and Fats Kaplin on steel guitar, and Elizabeth Cook on harmony vocals.
Unlike many new country bands who sacrifice their musical honesty on the alter of Las Vegas slickness, Pin Monkey manage to retain their organic core values. Whether its Kieran Kane's “Mountain Song” or Matraca Berg's “That Train Don't Run,” Pin Monkey's renditions reinterpret these songs in subtle yet pervasive ways that retain the song's emotional power while making them “kick.” Pin Monkey's original songs, such as the title song “Big Shiny Cars” combine the pitiful melancholy of a great honky-tonk elbow-bender with just a pinch of hope. Whenever I listen to Shiny Cars I'm continually reminded of the first Flying Burrito Brothers albums, not that Pin Monkey is a clone of the Burritos, but because Pin Monkey captures the same breezy yet high-energy country feeling that was pioneered by the Burritos.
Produced by Mark Bright and Pin Monkey, Shiny Cars was created as a reaction to having their first label pull the plug on their second album halfway through production. Two members left and the band was forced to regroup. They went into the studio, recorded the whole album, and then shopped the completed project to record labels. Back Porch Records had the taste to immediately make an offer, which was accepted by the band. Even though it was self-produced, Big Shiny Cars has the lush sonics of a major label product. The multi-layered vocals combine rich harmonic texture with precise individual specificity.
Need a new dose of country music that goes past the shiny surface right down to the roots? Pin Monkey will get her done.