JIM & JENNIE AND THE PINETOPS with NICOLAI DUNGER at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), Tuesday (August 1). $10. 416-870-8000.
Equally at home at outdoor blue grass festivals, honky-tonk bars or even strumming quietly along with some sensitive beard-folk hombres in a church basement, Jim & Jennie and the Pinetops have much broader appeal than their ill-fitting "alternative country" tag might suggest.
That's partly a natural consequence of the diverse interests of the group members. For example, many fans of Jim & Jennie and the Pinetops' music probably aren't aware of frontman Jim Krewson's previous artistic successes in a field fairly removed from the music scene.
Krewson was one of the most skilled erotic pastry craftsmen in the business until he gave up sculpting penis-shaped layer cakes professionally a few years back. Now and then he'll still whip up some of his tasty little turd tortes as a birthday treat for a close friend, although he has likely decorated his last Dolly Parton "Breast Wishes" gateau.
"It all began with a job writing birthday greetings on giant cookies at the Cookie Factory in Philadelphia," Krewson recalls, "till a friend of mine saw my knack for decorating and got me into this erotic bakery where she was working. From there I moved on to a shop in San Francisco doing more elaborate custom jobs and some weird stuff, too. I had to shove a cellphone up a butt cake once.
"There were also these people who wanted a cake decorated with the likeness of a family member killed in a gang shooting. After it was done, they couldn't bear to cut into it, so they just kept it in the freezer and pulled it out to look at now and then."
Krewson claims he probably did his best work after he moved to New York and got a job with Masturbakers. Apparently, the John Holmes penis cake was a popular item, though they also moved a lot of boob cakes in both the Dolly Parton size and the bigger Russ Meyer versions.
"There's a lot of work that goes into making a three-dimensional cake shaped like a penis that tastes good, believe me. And knowing that after spending all that time and effort on it, the thing is just going to get eaten is really kind of a letdown. Eventually, I had to give it up."
These days, Krewson's tasty testicle time may be a distant memory, but he and his Pinetops bandmates are all involved in various side projects scattered across the country. Singer/mandolinist Jennie Benford plays old-time music with Jeff Kazor in his San Francisco-based Crooked Jades, who recently released the enjoyably haunting World's On Fire (Jade Note) disc. Pinetops banjocaster slasher Brad Hutchison has been honing his acoustic plucking with rootsy bluegrass crew Greasy Beans over in Asheville, North Carolina, while Krewson and bassist Brendan Skwire have been been lighting up the Catskills wedding circuit as the Blue Ribbon Boys.
In fact, they haven't collaborated on any new material since releasing Rivers Roll On By (Bloodshot) last year, so they're really only moonlighting as Jim & Jennie and the Pinetops now.
"Since we all live in different parts of the country, we've been taking a little hiatus and pursuing our own projects," explains Krewson from his home in the Catskills. "Jennie and I work pretty well together, but we have really different tastes, so after spending so much time with each other as a band, it's good to be able to work on our own stuff for a while.
"We haven't been doing any recording lately, so really, the only time we get back together now is for tours. After being apart for so long, I always think we're gonna sound terrible, but the minute we start playing, everything just falls into place."
In addition to performing polka requests, the multi-talented Krewson has been using his down time to work on his airbrush painting and sculptures, which have recently moved from homoerotic depictions of Hollywood stars in unlikely couplings to animatronic curiosities.
"I'm working on a few pieces simultaneously right now. There's one involving a robot rabbit playing a guitar plugged into an amp, and another with John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
"Well, it's actually the heads of John and Yoko stuck onto dogs' bodies surrounded by a bunch of hippies," Krewson corrects himself. "You know that scene in The Invasion Of The Body Snatchers where that dog runs around with a guy's head on it? I found that very inspiring. I've always thought that if you're doing any kind of art work, it should be entertaining... which I guess explains my work with X-rated baked goods."