In 2012 something rare and magical happened to the musical universe. But let me give you a bit of backstory first. You see, I was about 37 years old. I’d been in love with music since I was a young boy. I’m telling you this because, as I approached 40, subconscious though it may have been, I’d already assumed that my favorite artist(s), my favorite song(s), my favorite genre(s), and my favorite album(s) already existed. Once again, whether consciously or subconsciously, I already knew what they were, you see. I’d already picked them out.
Enter The Pines and their 2012 masterpiece, Dark So Gold. A collection of songs that seem to have no age, no emotional baggage, no solid identity whatsoever. The album seems to escape, or be immune to, the usual acclimatization that occurs when one listens to a new piece of work over and over again. Every track on the album is alive, laced with a hopeful sadness, possessing an ability to wholesomely fill whatever void a listener might bring to the table.
And so, at 37 years old, after decades of musical loves, I’d finally—and unexpectedly—found my greatest of all time. Feeling this way about a piece of music, I was realistic with my expectations for a follow-up album from this Iowa native band which describes their genre and sound as “transcendental folk”. For, surely nothing quite so great, so cherished, could ever happen again, ever. Then, in 2016, after four eager, almost painful years of waiting, The Pines released Above the Prairie.
I was wrong.
Wrapped warmly with layers of etheric synthesizer, gently plucked acoustic and electric guitars, perfectly minimal percussion, and of course vocal and lyrical efforts common only to The Pines, Above the Prairie somehow found a way to pick up where Dark So Gold left off.
Opening with Aerial Ocean, it becomes quickly apparent that The Pines best days are not behind them, but rather, lay ahead. Listeners are immediately enveloped in a wave of ambient synthesizer, followed soon after by the blending guitars of co-frontmen Benson Ramsey and David Huckfelt. As Benson begins to sing, the story told is lovely and simple: Life is temporary. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it’s beautiful. And, sharing it, sharing love, can change everything…
There In Spirit, Huckfelt’s ode to compassion, takes the baton from Aerial Ocean and carefully asks us to consider the things that truly matter most amidst our culture’s obsession with ownership and materialism. To whom have we reached out? To whom have we offered a helping hand, a smiling glance, a show of support. Dreamy waves of vocals and synth, Huckfelt’s crisp acoustic guitar, and Ramsey’s electric notes rising and fading away make this an easy favorite on the album. It calms the spirit and offers hope.
Hanging From The Earth has Ramsey stretching himself vocally as he never previously has in this tribute to the uncertainties that come with love in a relative world. The track provides the most obvious evidence of the growth and evolution of The Pines’ sound. Expansive and bold, Benson proclaims…
“And all along the way, I was dreamin’, dreamin’
But I lost my way, now you’re leavin’ me hangin’ from the Earth”
As any fan of The Pines knows well, the group always includes one or two instrumental numbers on every album. Fans know too, that a Pines song void of lyrics is no less enchanting. True to form, and in keeping with their past instrumentals, Villisca, offers Uilleann pipes, keys, and synth in an arrangement that brings to mind the lush and green hillsides, wide open spaces, and crisp refreshing air of long ago.
Bravely, The Pines show us exactly what is important to them, and the reason they express themselves through music, by concluding the album with a collaboration with the late Native American activist, John Trudell. In Time Dreams, the band provides a gentle backdrop of acoustic guitar and synth infused melody, while Trudell offers his unique voice on the nature of love, truth, and reality…
“Time dreams, our memories come from the earth, and return to the earth
In the reunion, our pulse comes from the sky, and returns to the sky”
Like Spring’s relationship to Summer, it seems Dark So Gold was not a one-time bolt of lightning, but rather a prelude to Above The Prairie’s coming beauty. There is a magic in The Pines’ music that is difficult to describe, and far easier to experience.
Without knowing it, we all listen to music in order to be transported to another time and place, to another feeling state. The Pines take their listeners to a soothing, open place, where all are quite naturally inclined to consider the spirit, and to coexist. Their music provides us with a place to rest, a feeling of home, and, if only for a moment, with an opportunity to appreciate who and what we have—right now, in this moment. Their music is a gift.
The Pines possess as unique of a sound as you may ever encounter. That said, if I had to try to liken it to anything, it might be this…old school Bob Dylan records a modern album with Enya’s producers to create something raw, honest, haunting, and utterly beautiful.
Below, you can listen to music from The Pines’ new album, Above The Prairie, connect with their website and social media platforms, watch their music video, check out their live show/tour schedule, and find their booking & contact information. Please support The Pines by visiting them online, and playing, downloading, and/or purchasing their music. And, as always, thank you for supporting real music!
Listen to music from The Pines’ album, Above The Prairie:
Connect with The Pines online:
Watch The Pines’ music video for the song Lost Nation:
Check out The Pines’ live show/tour schedule:
Booking & contact information for The Pines:
General Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
US & Canada Booking:
info (at) highroadtouring.com