Pinmonkey brings bluegrass to Davis Park

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Country/bluegrass/gospel fusion group opens for Jeff Bates and Trace Adkins June 26 at Davis Park

Pinmonkey’s music is as original and unique as its name. The band’s artistic fusion of country, bluegrass and gospel has captured the interest of a variety of listeners. Local residents will have the opportunity to witness Pinmonkey’s innovative style Saturday, June 26, when the group opens for Jeff Bates and Trace Adkins at Davis Park as part of the Stars And Guitars concert series. Grammy-nominated country star Keith Urban kicks off the series June 25.

Pinmonkey formed five years ago when singer Michael Reynolds teamed with guitar/dobro player Chad Jeffers in Nashville, Tenn. The duo decided to expand the group and added bassist Michael Jeffers (Chad’s brother) and drummer Rick Schell.

Although the band released an independent record in 2001 called Speak No Evil, Pinmonkey gained widespread recognition with its self-titled major label debut in 2002. Propelled by the hit single “Barbed Wire And Roses,” the album earned the respect of fans and critics alike.

In a recent interview with The Rock River Times, Michael Jeffers explained the significance behind the band’s unusual name.

“Pinmonkey is actually a Simpsons reference,” Jeffers said. “Michael Reynolds is an avid fanatic, and he was put on the spot for a band name. He was watching the Simpsons, and there was an episode where Homer quits his job at the nuclear plant to become a pinmonkey.”

The band planned to use the bowling term as a temporary name, but decided to adopt it permanently.

“It gets us a lot of attention, and it’s just about as different as our music,” remarked Jeffers.

Pinmonkey’s music is, in fact, very different from the country pop currently favored on Music Row. Reynolds, a Natural Bridge, Va., native, has a clear Appalachian tenor that brings a classic bluegrass element to the group’s sound. Jeffers adds another dimension with his Southern California country rock influences. When asked to describe Pinmonkey’s music, Jeffers found it difficult to define the band’s cross genre sound. “I would just suggest having your readers come out and hear it themselves,” he said with a laugh.

Longtime Pinmonkey fans will notice a few distinct changes when the band takes the stage this Saturday. The most notable being the absence of drummer Rick Schell. He recently left the group to pursue other musical and career opportunities. Nevertheless, he remains on good terms with his former band members. Pinmonkey has hired a new drummer to finish its tour, but has not yet found a permanent replacement.

Earlier this year, the band also parted ways with its record label, BNA. While some might view this as a dangerous situation, Pinmonkey has a positive outlook.

“We’re excited about moving on,” Jeffers said. He explained that the band is working “real hard” to finish its next album and hopes to have it out by the fall. A video is also scheduled to be released.

Pinmonkey plans to return to its roots on its upcoming CD.

“I think we’re really going back to more vintage Pinmonkey—doing what we started out doing in Michael Reynolds’ living room,” Jeffers said.

Jeffers also said the group was excited to record the CD independently because there would be no pressure to adhere to the strict format dictated by the industry. “We’re a lot different than what mainstream country radio is all about,” Jeffers said.

Instead of worrying about its commercial appeal, Pinmonkey prefers to concentrate on its music. Jeffers said the band feels a bit of extra pressure to perform well in Rockford since it’s opening for the energetic country superstar Trace Adkins. Along with several original songs, the trio also plans to include a few interesting covers during its set. One of the most entertaining is a bluegrass version of the pop hit “Fly” by Sugar Ray.

“It’s one of our favorite songs, and the crowd really digs it,” Jeffers explained. He also said Mark McGrath, lead singer of Sugar Ray, has heard Pinmonkey’s rendition and “approves of it.”

Overall, Jeffers said fans can expect an entertaining and energetic concert. “We try to do a real upbeat show and try to get the crowd as involved as we can,” Jeffers said.

Reserved seat tickets for the June 26 Pinmonkey/Jeff Bates/Trace Adkins show at Davis Park are $28 in advance and $35 at the gate. General admission tickets are $12 in advance and $17 at the gate. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the MetroCentre box office or by calling 968-5222.

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