The Pine Hill Haints

Ghost Dance

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Had the Haints (Southern lingo for "ghosts") formed several decades earlier, their hybridized rockabilly tunes might've found a home on the Sun Records roster. Ghost Dance doesn't boast the sexual energy that made the Sun label such a force in early rock & roll, but it still strikes the same down-home sweet spot that inspires audiences to shake their hips and wistfully dream of Dixie life. With a solid, semi-rasped voice, frontman Jamie Barrier leads his bandmates through 20 servings of spooky Southern hospitality, from old reworked blues tunes ("St. Louis Blues") and rhythmic shuffles ("For Every Glass That's Empty") to the lonely banjo-led strains of "Ol' White Thang Blues." For a band so obsessed with prowling ghosts and screaming banshees, the Pine Hill Haints sound remarkably lively as they scrape washboards, bang snare drums, and occasionally max out their cheap microphones. One gets the impression that the bandmates don't fear their spooky subjects as much as view them as part of the South's culture, as integral to the region as bluegrass and soul food. Hauntings and heartache can make strange bedfellows, but the Haints somehow make the combination work, sandwiching songs like "I Never Thought the Day Would Come When You Could Hate Me So Dearly" (a rollicking country-rock number, and perhaps the best track on the disc) in between the supernatural fare. Ghost Dance's song are short and concise, rarely stretching past the two-and-a-half-minute mark, and bridges are abandoned in favor of tight verse/chorus packages. The result is certainly evocative of the South -- of tin-roofed shacks, cotton fields, and haunted crossroads -- but it also suggests an earlier era of rock & roll, one in which the "roll" was prized above most everything else.

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