Rising out of the prairies of the Midwest, The Pines are one of the most distinct and powerful indie-rock/Americana groups to hit the national scene in years. Emerging from the same Minneapolis music world that spawned such notable acts as The Jayhawks, The Replacements and Bob Dylan, The Pines have gathered a stunning line-up of musical talent, in both their live shows and on record, that has gained them a faithful and growing following.
Frontmen Benson Ramsey and David Huckfelt share a common musical language rooted in the songs and songwriters of their native Iowa, while each bringing a distinct voice and sensibility to the sound that Rolling Stone senior writer David Fricke called “quietly gripping” stark-country. The mysterious sound of The Pines fuses Benson’s ethereal, otherworldly, heart-piercing songs with David’s earthy, darkly romantic and rough-hewn visionary tales. With masterful guitar work, beautiful vocals and the graceful keyboard and vocal additions of Benson’s brother Alex Ramsey, the core of The Pines’ sound captivates and elevates with rare intimacy.
Surprisingly, David Huckfelt and Benson Ramsey actually began their musical partnership in Arizona, where they both lived in a Mexican barrio and first began playing together. The son of Greg Brown’s producer and sideman Bo Ramsey, Benson was reared on folk and blues music and continues to let those influences shine, even on louder electric songs. David also had a deep love for traditional music, and together the two of them started crafting songs that evoke the ancient, while incorporating newer rock and pop sounds.
Committing to a musical career together, Benson and David returned to their Midwestern roots and moved to Minneapolis, where they slowly grew their band to include banjo player Michael Rossetto (Spaghetti Western String Co.), drummer J.T. Bates (Michel Portal, John Gorka), bassist James Buckley (Ed Harcourt, Daniel Johnston, Dosh), guitarist Jacob Hanson (Halloween, Alaska) and Benson’s brother Alex Ramsey on keyboards.
Creating quite a buzz around the Twin Cities and across the Upper Midwest, The Pines caught the attention of acclaimed indie label Red House Records and signed with them in 2007, releasing their breakout album Sparrows in the Bell, named one of the top roots releases of the year by Q Magazine. The Pines wowed audiences at the 2008 South By Southwest (SXSW) and were named one of the musical highlights by CMT.com. They followed up this success with Tremolo, an album that garnered rave reviews in magazines like Rolling Stone and got airplay on tastemaker stations such as KCRW and The Current. It landed them coveted performances on Daytrotter.com and Bob Harris’ popular BBC show, winning them new fans across North America and Europe. A great live act whether performing as a stripped-down trio (David Huckfelt, Benson Ramsey and Alex Ramsey) or as a full rock band, The Pines’ devoted cult following and has led them to share the stage with such diverse acts as Jolie Holland, The Arcade Fire, Iris DeMent, Mavis Staples, Bon Iver and The Holmes Brothers.
Dark So Gold was their 2011masterwork that showcased their distinct blend of dark Gothic folk as they created a cinematic soundscape of haunting songs and beautifully atmospheric instrumentals that conjure the sparse rolling landscapes of the Midwest.
From the haunting opening track “Cry, Cry, Crow,” The Pines conjure up rural specters and ghosts from the farms slowly disappearing throughout their native Iowa. Exploring the tension between city and small town and the loneliness that can exist in both, they move through breakups and new beginnings on songs like “If By Morning,” “All the While,” “Dead Feathers” and the radio-friendly “Chimes.” Whether rocking out (“Rise Up and Be Lonely”) or playing contemplative instrumentals (“Moonrise, IA” and “Losing the Stars”), The Pines cook up a diverse palette of musical flavors and songs that reflect on cold days, dark nights and the hope that shines in between.
Now on their EP Pasture: Folk Songs, The Pines show that they are brilliant interpreters of public domain ballads and fellow midwest songs smiths like Greg Brown, Iris Dement, Mason Jennings, Joe Price, and Mance Lipscomb. This is a first in a series of Pines EP's available to fans, these songs are favorites of The Pines live shows and are now available for the first time. The EP features the touring ensemble consisting of Benson Ramsey, David Huckfelt, and Alex Ramsey with James Buckley joining on bass.