Jim and Jennie and the Pinetops Rivers Roll on By

[Bloodshot; 2005]

Rating: 2.5/5

Styles: bluegrass, alt-country, classic country
Others: Gillian Welch, Nickel Creek, Allison Krauss

Bluegrass is a dying, and resuscitated art. As hard as many in the new Nashville would love to quell the raucous that artists like Nickel Creek or Allison Krauss create with the fiddles and mandolins, many indie fans (and most country traditionalists) have hopped on board. Sure, most bluegrass today that does see the light of day is streamlined and mainstreamed for public consumption, but a few bands teeter on the edge of country and indie.

Such is the blurred line Jim & Jennie & The Pinetops walk. Sadly, the group fails to tightrope the line of excitement and intrigue with their latest offering, Rivers Roll on By. After the sizzling 2002 release of One More in the Cabin, maybe hopes were too high. It's not the music that's mundane or uninteresting, but it's that the songs just lie there like a dissatisfied lover. Gone are the fire, the passion, and urgency of previous albums leaving what amounts to prototypical hoedown music.

Much of the album is average and plain. It fails to bring the gruff interior out from the bright exterior of bluegrass. Songs like "The Way it is for Me" and "Katy Hill" are bland at best, reminiscent of the less interesting tracks of everyone's favorite neo-bluegrass soundtrack, O Brother Where Art Thou. The musicianship is top notch and the voices blend into one warm harmony, but there's still a fire missing. These songs are too boring to feel rustic and too oafish to feel clever. When the band switches gears into more traditional country, nothing changes. "Mt. St. Helens" disguises itself behind the mask of Emmylou Harris, but the lyrics are a bit too hokey and hollow to reach the inspiring heights of Harris' best performances.

The album is a large step back for a band once poised for breaking down the barriers between indie rock ideals and country music's rich storytelling history. There aren't nearly enough positives within Rivers Roll on By to pull the album out of mire of average.

1. Country Boy Rock and Roll
2. Mt. St. Helens
3. Blackie Moore
4. Red Rocking Chair
5. Katy Hill
6. Quit Barking at Me
7. The Poison Vine
8. The Way it is For Me
9. Cold Green Sea
10. Hannah's Song
11. I Know You're Married but I Love You Still
12. Walking in My Sleep
13. Stars Fall

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