Pinebox Serenade, George Neal

What if Leonard Cohen fronted a bluegrass ensemble? Denton's Pinebox Serenade can give you a pretty good answer, somewhere in the middle of their seven-piece medley featuring, among other things, mandolin, fiddle and cello. Serenade has become a ubiquitous favorite in area dives over the past year or two, their fare ranging from dark, smoky minor-chord numbers to old-timey, piston-driven whiplash romps, to Slobberbone-ish whiskey narratives about the other side of the tracks. Not surprisingly, Slobberbone's Brent Best recorded last year's debut and is working with them on this one as well. The real treat here may be George Neal, the eccentric avuncular figure who once helmed Denton's beloved Little Grizzly. With his stripped-down, slightly off-key confessionals delivered in a corn-fed voice that's a hair too high-pitched for comfort, Neal is poised to join the Jad Fair/Jeff Mangum/Daniel Johnston cult of the outsider. Truly a magnetic presence.

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