The music he made with groups like The Light Wires, The Great Depression and The Brothers and the Sisters helped make singer/songwriter Jeremy Pinnell one of many local music fans' favorite songwriters. Pinnell's folksy songs were marked by his ability to convey — with an almost uncomfortable accuracy — the kind of dark, ominous emotions most people try to bury. His words, his melodies and especially his muttering yet soulful voice had that rare ability to effortlessly do what most writer's strive for their whole career — to make a deep connection with the listener that goes beyond a hummable hook or slick guitar solo and buries itself deep inside their conscience.
Having practically every person who heard his songs immediately captivated wasn't enough to keep those projects together. Pinnell seemed to ride the waves of success each act experienced (on varying levels), then the band would break up before the project's full potential was reached.
After another dry spell, Pinnell returns to the local stage tonight at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine for the live debut of his latest project, Jeremy Pinnell and the 55's. Once again, Pinnell has hooked up with some gifted collaborators to create more soul-stirring songs to shatter what's left of your fragile, blackened heart.
The 55's reteams Pinnell with one of his earliest musical partners, Cameron Cochran (currently with Pop Empire). When they were 18, Cochran and Pinnell were pals playing Country songs together at their buddies' Punk Rock shows. Cochran says "The Voice" was already in place.
"He had that voice that would shut up a room," Cochran writes in a press release. "It didn't matter what the show was. He would open his mouth and everyone listened."
The two went their separate ways eventually, but recently reconnected. Cochran is vague about the circumstances of their last project ending and this one beginning, saying only that it is a tale of "heartbreak, tragedy, love and redemption" worthy of a Country song. Indeed, the 55's sound is somewhere between AltCountry and Indie Folk, with the timelessness of those genres' precursors driving everything. The band is rounded out by drummer Chris Alley and bassist Ben Franks; Cochran adds spectral atmospherics with his pedal steel guitar work and hovering backing vocals.
Some of the 55's material has come out via a handful of wonderful live videos shot by local photography superstar Michael Wilson. Below, check out one of the clips by Wilson, who is also working with Cochran on a series filming at The Emery Theater called "One Shot Music Videos" (referring to how Wilson shoots each in one continuous shot without edits).
Tonight's show at MOTR is free and starts around 9:30 p.m. Visit JP & the 55's on Facebook here.