Album Review

Surreal and Sublime: The Pines Soar

The Pines - Above the Prairie

The Pines have always had a knack for making music that’s both sensual and alluring, but that’s never been more evident than on this, the fascinating fifth effort by the Minnesota-based band who refer to themselves simply as The Pines. Co-produced by Bo Ramsey, the man known best for being behind the boards for Greg Brown, Above the Prairie boasts a series of shimmering, seductive soundscapes that pointedly reflect the other-worldly imagery suggested by its title. Within this beguiling set of songs there exists a dream-like pastiche accompanied by a nocturnal gaze, imbuing songs such as “Aerial Ocean,” “There In Spirit,” “Sleepy Hollow,” and “Hanging From The Earth” with an unmistakable allure that’s stunning to say the least, but dazzling overall. The brooding chorus on “Here” -- featuring guest appearances from Ramsey, Brown, Iris Dement, and Pieta Brown among others -- is as solemn, somber and moving as a hallowed cathedral choir, reinforcing the celestial feel that permeates the proceedings overall. However the most moving sequence in the entire album emerges with the final entry, the mystical “Time Dreams,” which features one of the final recordings by the late Native American singer, poet and fearless activist John Trudell and his band Quiltman. Trudell, who passed away just this past December, provides a spoken narrative that not only illuminates the song’s quiet embrace, but also raises the emotional bar overall.  It’s a fitting send-off to an album that’s ground not only in sentiment, but spirituality as well.