Halloween is coming. Are there any Millennials out there? Millennials love Halloween. Maybe you’re looking for the perfect, soundtrack for your Halloween party (no “Monster Mash”, please). Here it is. It is also the perfect soundtrack for the month of October or any other time, really. This album is lively, classy, fun, really cool, and really unique. The Pine Hill Haints are a five person band hailing from Alabama. They’ve put out a lot of music since their formation in 1998–nine albums and many EP’s. They’re constantly recording and consistently touring. They strive to capture that feeling that you get in those old, old deep southern graveyards at night. Their sound is a little southern charm, a bit of catfishing, some corpse candles (the marsh gas kind), creeping, crawling, abandoned plantations, old time folk, rock and roll, and ghost music. Their lyrics talk about monsters, ghosts, vampires, relationships, and rattling bones. An immense number of vocal techniques are used, instruments from all over time. It’s very Alabama, very backwoods and dirt roads to the cemetery.
I could spend pages just describing this band’s sound to you because each song is so different but flowing from the same bloody vein.
“Mrs. Pacman”s initial draw for me was some awesome ghostly noises being played on a musical saw. If you read the stuff I write regularly, you will have noticed that I love when bands play offbeat instruments. You should too. The musical saw is extremely under-utilized and produces a really gorgeous, eerie sound. In case I forget to mention it, The Pine Hill Haints also feature washboard, tenor banjo, accordion, and washtub sounds along with a host of other slightly more conventional bluegrass/folk instruments. “Mrs. Pacman” features gritty vocals, firm percussion, and lyrics which are spooky, yet gentle. There are dark clouds and tall pine trees, vampires and Pacman machines.
“Rattle Them Bones” features a dark Caribbean beat and a melody that just begs your hips to swing. Frontman, Jamie Barrier’s voice is dirty and warm. Percussion clatters and backup voices chant. There’s a dissonance to this song that reminds me of The Psalters (another band which I love for their truly weird sound). It feels a bit chaotic but it is extremely organized. It takes a heap of skill to create music that sounds like chaos but not noise.
“Coffin Black” has much more of a dark, rock and roll, punk sound. Still old school. Still a little dirty, a little creepy–but not enough to keep the kids away. It starts off with more musical saw noises to set the tone. There is accordion and moonlight all the way through. This song runs just over a minute and leaves an impression in a short time. It’s the catchy one that I’ve been humming for a few days.
Pure, sweet fiddle begins “Scarlet Fever”. It’s high and gentle, joined by other jolly instruments. “Oh, girl you’re so pretty and all the boys come to you.” The song tells the story of the girl who is loved by everyone but does not love in return. The melody is a little bit old world Celtic with a great Southern pull.
If you’re going to go find one new band this autumn, check these guys out. They’re fantastic. They have a really unique sound, weird, cool lyrics, and amazing skill on a vast array of instruments. If nothing else, add them to your Halloween party play list and impress your friends. The Pine Hill Haints capture the haunted essence of the deepest south and are creepy, ghostly wonderful.