Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.

In the midst of an early spring tour of country radio stations, a bus that the band Pinmonkey had leased suddenly caught on fire in Charleston, S.C., and was totaled, along with most of the band's clothes and personal items. Their instruments and gear, while smoky, were largely unharmed. Booked to play that night at local venue the Plex, the band made a quick wardrobe shopping trip, hopped on a borrowed van, and the show went on as planned.

It's that kind of professionalism, coupled with a distinctive rock-meets-bluegrass sound, that has impressed the Music Row community and is earning Pinmonkey a following at country radio.

Cody Alan, music director at KPLX (the Wolf) Dallas, says, "I like to call their stuff 'genuine bluegrass funk.' It's fun ear candy for our listeners, with a sound that's part bluegrass, part driving country. I like all that I've heard on the new album-unique, simple instrumentation, cool harmonies, interesting songs."

Released Tuesday (Oct. 8), Pinmonkey's eponymous debut 11-track album for BNA Records features some memorable originals and some interesting cover choices, most notably Cyndi Lauper's 1989 hit "I Drove All Night." It will be the album's second single, shipping to radio late this month. Also covered are Sugar Ray's "Fly," the gospel number "Stay With Me" by the Staples Singers, and Dolly Parton's "Falling out of Love With Me," featuring Parton on harmony vocals.

Lead singer Michael Reynolds says that, regardless of a song's origin, "anything I sing comes out bluegrass." drummer Rick Schell, who says his wife describes their music as "pop grass," agrees: "There is something innate in us that when we start playing something, it just comes out Pinmonkey." The group is rounded out by brothers Chad and Michael Jeffers; Chad plays dobro and lap steel, while Michael is the group's bassist.

In February, Pinmonkey independently released its first album, "Speak No Evil," with the blessing of BNA, which had already signed the band by that point. The group wanted an album to tour behind, and the combination of that album and promotional dates set up by BNA has kept it on the road for much of this year. Pinmonkey is currently on an eight-city run as part of the CMT Most Wanted Live tour.

Pinmonkey began playing together for fun. While Reynolds was pursuing a solo deal, the other group members were making their living performing behind established country acts. "We were all freelancing, and we'd get together when we'd have a chance just as a creative outlet, with no real eye on anything," Schell says. "This is a real band, not something contrived or put together to get a record deal."





Excerpted from the Oct. 12, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com members section.

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