Acclaimed country artist to perform in central Pa., and it’s a homecoming for one of his band members

Jeremy Pinnell will perform Sunday at the Rusty Rail Brewing Company in Mifflinburg. Centre County native Jason Tutwiler plays electric guitar in his band.
Jeremy Pinnell will perform Sunday at the Rusty Rail Brewing Company in Mifflinburg. Centre County native Jason Tutwiler plays electric guitar in his band.

Jeremy Pinnell and his band have been on a massive tour all year, and on Sunday, the tour will bring them close to home for State College native Jason “Junior” Tutwiler, who plays electric guitar in the band.

Pinnell’s country band will perform at the Rusty Rail Brewing Company in Mifflinburg at 7 p.m. Sunday, with Milheim-based Chris Rattie and the New Rebels as an opener.

“We’ve been focusing on the East Coast right now,” Pinnell said. “We’ve done quite a bit in the West Coast and down south. We’re just trying to cover all our bases.”

This is an extremely hardworking band that has its act together. Along with all of the tour dates, there are hundreds more dating back five years. Along with this rigorous touring schedule, the band somehow found the time to record two albums and is making plans to start recording a third album early in 2020.

“We’ve been busting our hump,” Pinnell said.

It’s paying off, too. There have been glowing blurbs in Rolling Stone and other heady music-industry publications, Pinnell is in the running to be the Cincinnati Country Artist of the Year, and there are some outstanding videos available on YouTube produced by Ditty TV. The wind is to this band’s back, and is blowing it toward the great, mystical, musical unknown.

Listening to Pinnell’s music hits the spot. It’s definitely some smooth, classic-oriented country, fearlessly rollicking through honky-tonk and not shying away from the slow stuff, which is no less intense but simultaneously beautiful. These guys are in the zone when they are playing, eyes often shut, space between the words and notes, intention streaming through them.

“We do mostly originals,” Pinnell said. “We do a few covers. Obviously, we’re more influenced now with blues since we’ve got Junior in the group. We’ve got a great band and we all enjoy playing.”

Tutwiler tends to impact bands in a way that takes them somewhere new, whether it be locally with Pure Cane Sugar, sitting in with Strayer and the Dogs, or on the national scene with Pinnell’s band. He’s simply got that thing Ian Hendrickson-Smith spoke about a few months ago, that inherent ability, that professional approach, even down to the his atmospheric silhouette when he’s performing. Pinnell has obviously noticed.

“He’s always on top of it,” Pinnell said. “He doesn’t mess around when it comes to music. He’s got goals. He’s real easy to travel with. He always has something slick to say. He’s such an amazing guitar player. People ask about a pedal steel, but I’m like, ‘We’ve got Junior. We don’t need a pedal steel.’”

On Tutwiler’s end, this is his second stint in a dedicated touring band, and he’s been at it now for two years since making the move to Nashville and fortuitously meeting Pinnell.

“They’d been doing it for a while,” Tutwiler said. “We met through Terry Rickards. They had a string of dates lined up and we just went form there.”

The “went from there” has resulted in a full-blown top shelf gig that seems tailor-made for Tutwiler, who still plays his light blue, semi-hollow body Telecaster, and who revels in the challenge of such an intense touring schedule as well as the evolution of the experience of playing well-rehearsed music night after night all across America.

“You’re getting back into it the first three or four gigs,” Tutwiler said, “Then by the fifth gig you’re just a well-oiled machine, crushing every night, and everyone’s really tight and synced up. You’re playing every night for 30 nights, linked up not even thinking about it, and that’s when cool stuff can happen.”

That’s good news for what’s going to happen at the Rusty Rail on Sunday. It is going to be an amazing return to central Pa. for Pinnell, and a triumphant homecoming for Tutwiler, who has a drove of supporters who are excited about this show.

“He is incredibly hard-working,” musical collaborator Natalie Race wrote. “Besides his obvious musical ability, of which he is so humble, he is a loyal friend. He’s one of the greats, all around.”

Kevin Briggs is a researcher, writer and musician who performs at venues throughout central Pennsylvania. Contact him at KevinTBriggs@gmail.com.