Minneapolis-based the Pines present a sophisticated folk-centric landscape in their self-titled debut, mingling traditional and contemporary influences. On top of familiar and fairly standard instrumentation -- rarely if ever entirely acoustic -- singers/songwriters/multi-instrumentalists Benson Ramsey and David Huckfelt add wistful effects, busy and textured arrangements, and agile songwriting with personal lyrics, giving them firm footing in contemporary folk. The Pines feels like an old-school country album but more precisely, it sounds like Americana. The opening track, instrumental "Moon When the Cherries Turn Black," establishes all of these features before the album opens up to a variety of sub-styles. The bluesy "Bound to Fall" is a simpler exercise, with a narrow pitch range and talky, tell-it-like-it-is vocals, but also has extended chords and atmospheric guitar effects. A pair of haunting indie folk, indie-film-score-sounding instrumentals fall dead center of the 13-track set list, employing sound effects and echoing guitars and keyboards to reinforce a thoughtful if not solemn mood. The brink-tempo ode to depression, "Pale White Horse," has a country base with melodic, duet-like guitar accompaniment and moving, imagery-rich lyrics ("You wouldn't know but I've got the scar/And the moon's got a choke hold on a star/I've got half a mind and half a dead guitar"). Though no song is representative of the entire album, the record is an introspective affair, musically lively but sincere on all fronts. Perhaps not in stark contrast but with increased sass, there's also a cautionary blues tale in "Stevenson Motel Breakdown" and a clap-along drinking shantey in the traditional "Roll on John." The record varies tempos, the emphasis on effects, and intricacy of musicianship from track to track, as well as offering no less than four instrumentals, all contributing to an interesting and flexible introduction to a promising roots band.
The Pines Review
by Marcy Donelson