The Pines serenade Milwaukee crowd


The Pines; hear the name and picture Pacific Northwest woods in fall – the air cool, the crisp leaves. A man’s plaintive wailing voice telling us where she went, and how she’s doomed to shiver the whole night through.

Hailing from Iowa, Alex and Benson Ramsey, along with lead David Huckfelt, exist in that raw, emotionally crippling edge – the empty, tight grip of loneliness; the vast, painted landscape of grey, cold, barren land. A city in winter, dirty, quiet, still (“Feeling so Far Away from Home”). A farmhouse, leaning, weary, its fields overgrown and neglected. They are stirring, with notes of folk and bluegrass.

They are moving, in an almost undetectable way.  These three men embody a slowly burning essence of brooding contemplation, of fresh heartbreak. Their music is one that starts out quietly, insidious. Their music is unpretentious, wooing the listener to become lost in thought, until the weight and the sincerity of the sound bites the listener in the neck – and they find themselves laying on the floor, stricken, confused, a victim to wraith-like beauty, “Moonrise, IA” (only halfway finished).

The Pines are a sincere band. They have no airs; a miracle these days. These are three men in love with creating music, with playing their instruments purely and simply. They create no distance with their audience, speaking out across the stage with bare, light-hearted wit.

These are three men who’d most likely greet a passing soul in the hall with a quick smile and a “hello.” More likely, they’re shy and they’d only spare that quick, awkward smirk.

Their music is just as humble, but no less profound and self-aware. (“Dead Feathers” – “My heart’s on fire but my hands are cold.”)

Their music is vast but compact all at once: like the Midwestern sky, like the neglected fields of that aforementioned listing farmhouse. “Cry, Cry, Crow” is such music. A slow, delicately paced letter to a love felt but maybe not yet known: “Before I was born/I could hear you calling my name from far away.”

It passes so lightly by, almost like a papercut never perceived, until the blood starts to pour.

The Back Room of Colectivo in Milwaukee was the perfect setting for such emotion. The Pines. Oh! The Pines. A large, keening heart. Singing of sorrow, of melancholy, of hope – but so tenderly, as if to mask itself (“Rise Up and Be Lonely,” the beat hip and pop, but the lyrics are something of lament.) Their music presents itself demurely, purely. It comes forward like a shy young lover, overfull of feeling, speaking softly – sweet breath against the skin to leave chills.

The Pines are that person we never realized we had loved all along, until we see them passing by. “Oh,” our stricken souls say, “It’s you I’ve been waiting for all this time.”