Music

Pine Hill Haints: Welcome to the Midnight Opry

An otherwise worthy batch of full-spectrum roots music that suffers from slipshod production.


Pine Hill Haints

Welcome to the Midnight Opry

Label: K
US Release Date: 2011-10-04
UK Release Date: Import
Amazon
iTunes

Of their three full-length albums, Welcome to the Midnight Opry sounds the most like a Pine Hill Haints live show. The instruments used and who's playing them is in constant flux. The chemistry is delicate and intense. Voices are reverberating through an antique microphone. All that's missing is alcohol and sweat. It's equally what they do and the way they do it that makes Pine Hill Haints unique.

And that unique spirit is partly the result of their tools; Pine Hill uses a single snare, a gut-bucket bass, a thrashed-out old acoustic guitar, the bowed saw, mandolin, fiddle, hamfisted banjo, and (now utilized more than ever) accordion. But it's also their craftsmanship. They have great songwriting, led by Jamie Barrier, is sentimental and wise and written about all those inescapable topics (Death, Family, and even Baseball). Matt Bakula's lyrics are equally proficient, but they're equally strange, enigmatic, even confounding: "I am the low / There are no others undertow / As far as I know / I am the very lowest low / And I have farther still to go / Yeah that low", goes one line.

It's even their methods: Pine Hill Paints use a single microphone and switch instruments within the songs. The players show so much common ground, they may as well be a family band.

The opening track on Welcome to the Midnight Opry, "Jack of Fire" might remind us that Pine Hill Haints once used cemeteries for practice space; under the spooky siren of Katie “Kat” Barrier's wailing saw, the Haints sound like a skeleton band thumping through lines like, "I danced to the chorus of a thousand bullfrogs / They call out your name in the hallow of a log". "Red Light" demonstrates another side of Pine Hill -- the bizarre calypso side -- with Matt Bakula's belting out a call-and-response shouter about the significance of the color red, raking a banjo as he explores he depths of his bass vocal range. "Moon Shadow", on the other hand, could easily soundtrack a 1950's romance -- it sounds fit to be blaring from your grandmother's kitchen radio.

The big problem with Welcome To the Midnight Opry is the production. The typically retro-centric Haints recorded the album live in one night on old-fashioned tape. The results are sonically dull. The acoustic guitar and vocals, in particular, are quiet and somewhat colorless when compared to the band's earlier recordings. The tracklist is poorly sequenced, too, with an introduction on track 14 and all of Bakula's songs lumped in the middle. As a result, the album feels over-long and disengaging.

Pine Hill Haints is a unique and greatly underrated band, and their songs speak a great deal of truth. While Midnight Opry adequately captures their ramshackle live sound, it does so in a way that provides no favors. While fans of the band will be sustained by new tracks and old tricks, newcomers should look to their back catalog for a proper introduction to Alabama ghost music.

5

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image