By Steve McPherson
Cedar Cultural Center
416 Cedar Ave. S
Minneapolis, MN 55454
Friday, Feb. 17 at 8 p.m.
Price: $18 day
Let no one say The Pines don’t know who they are. Since their very first, self-titled release, their album covers have always featured the band’s names in typography that sinks or rises from the baseline across the words—a little shaken, a little unsteady. And since their Red House Records debut, 2007′s Sparrows in the Bell, the letters have begun to drift apart; now, on the cover of Dark So Gold, they look as lonely as the scarecrow that stands alongside them. The music inside—and the music you’ll find at their Cedar Cultural Center release show—is similarly spare, a dusty and often ghostly take on Americana.
One thing it’s not—and refreshingly so in an era of mashups and wanton crossbreeding—is a blend. No: this is more like single barrel bourbon, aged in charred oak. When they began, it was just singer/songwriters Benson Ramsey and David Huckfelt, and the duo still play tag from song to song. Ramsey’s voice is the more ragged, a hushed reedy croon that complements Huckfelt’s brawnier (but just barely) tenor. But for a while now, the two have been working with an ace group of musical collaborators (including local jazz stalwarts J.T. Bates on drums and James Buckley on bass) to expand and then refine their palette.
Dark So Gold lets the room into the sound, from the gentle hum of amplifiers to the scraping of a brush across a snare just before it comes in, and the Cedar should prove an optimal venue for bring the songs to life. Despite its size, it always feels intimate and doubly so for seated shows, as this one will be. The sound there only seems to get better the quieter and more intricate the band gets, so you can expect every plucked banjo and cleared throat to resonate.
Jeffery Foucault, the singer and songwriter, will be opening before The Pines take the stage. Doors open at 7pm with the show beginning at 8 p.m.
Steve McPherson is a writer and musician who has lived in the Twin Cities since 2004, where he teaches writing and music at McNally Smith. His dog is named after both a drink and a guitar. He tweets from @steventurous.