The Pine Hill Haints supply antique sounds, modern attitude, and a good time all around.
The cover of The Magik Sounds of the Pine Hill Haints, the fifth release from the regionally popular Alabama band, captures the irreverent spirit of the band well. Two ghostly skeleton hands conjure lightning bolts below the band’s name, written in old-timey roadside attraction script. The whole is painted over a couple of pages ripped from the back of a 1970s era comic book, with ads for life-sized Halloween monsters, books of magic tricks, and assorted jolly novelties, any of which could be yours for one dollar or less. Those ads always seemed unsettling, like the carnival barker outside the freakshow tent, promising more than they were apt to deliver. Every kid knew it was a come on, but few failed to ask their parents for an envelope and stamp.
Unlike those ads of old, the Pine Hill Haints deliver on most promises here, offering 14 tracks that fly by in roughly 37 minutes. Purveyors of self-described "Ghost Music", the band’s fascination with the occult and all things antique comes through in both subject matter and instrumentation. Husband-wife Jamie and Katie "Kat" Barrier are both the heart and soul of the band, with Jamie supplying vocals, guitar, and fiddle with Katie on washboard, mandolin, and, a defining feature of their sound, singing saw. The rhythm section is provided by Matt Bakula and Ben Rhyne on washtub and snare respectively, with Sarah Nelson’s accordion filling out the sound. And it is a full sound they provide on these fourteen cuts, even if some are so brief as to appear more sonic exercises than complete songs, such as the shanty-like "Coffin Black". But then, if the Ramones had formed during the medicine show era of the 1920s, they may have sounded a lot like this.
Stylistically, the album is all over the place in a way that would be bothersome were it not for the speed and dexterity with which everything passes along. The Haints’ unique brand of antiquated schizophrenia of sound is highly infectious, as spooky swamp fuzztones fade into bluegrass balladry which blends into a Celtic march only to saunter into a Creole waltz. Album highlights include the fractured jazz stomp "Rattle Them Bones" and the mambo-inflected "Blow".
The Pine Hill Haints are a local success story in and around their Alabama home. They’ve worked tirelessly since the late 1990s to develop their unique brand and vision, touring constantly and self-releasing split singles, live recordings and albums before developing their ongoing relationship with K Records. With The Magik Sounds of the Pine Hill Haints they are poised for well-deserved notoriety beyond their little gothic corner of the South.