Pines return to Mill

BY LAURA WILLIS | MAY 05, 2011 7:20 AM

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Musicians David Huckfelt and Benson Ramsey believe that the roots of Midwestern music have a unique sound — one worth returning to.

“There is a patience to it. The sort of space and quiet that exists in the Midwest,” said Huckfelt, a cofounder of acoustic folk band the Pines. “The music can seep into your consciousness and take you to some place really beautiful.”

Embodying what critics call the “Iowa sound,” the Pines will return to its home state this week. The now-Minneapolis band will perform, with Seth Winger, at 8 p.m. Friday at the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St.. Admission is $8.

“Some have referred to their music as dark folk,” said the band’s head agent, Michael Rossetto. “It’s just honest music created by musicians who strive to push the boundaries of what folk music is.”

Whether developed in the inner cities or diverse cultures, the two believe that music derives from its geographical area. In Huckfelt’s and Ramsey’s case, small Iowa towns helped to inspire blues and folk melodies. A native of Spencer, Iowa, Huckfelt grew up exploring the local library for gospel-music album, comparing sounds of the past with present-day artists.

“Roots music isn’t frozen in the past,” Huckfelt said. “It’s a live, vital thing that doesn’t always appear and sound like you think it will.”

Five or so hours away (by car), in Washington County, Ramsey was discovering the same type of roots music from his father, the legendary Bo Ramsey. He was influential in Iowa’s growing blues and rock scene dating back to the ’70s, and he has been inducted into the Iowa Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame, as well as the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame.

Huckfelt and the younger Ramsey met in 2002 in a bar in Tucson, Ariz. Both were looking for a change of scenery, and the desert seemed like the perfect place to get away from the land of forever farmland. Together, they traveled across Arizona, performing the music they had grown accustomed to. But in two years, they were back in the Midwest, in Minneapolis, producing their first self-titled album.

“For us, it wasn’t a conscious decision to form a band,” Huckfelt said. “We just started to play the music that we knew and loved from Iowa.”

In 2007, the Pines released its second album, Sparrows in the Bell, on Red House Records. The folk ballads helped the CD earn the title of “one of the top roots releases,” by Q Magazine. The positive press helped the Pines play with such acts as Arcade Fire and Bon Iver.

In August 2010, the group created its third record, Tremolo, in a mere two days. Recording quickly contributes to the raw, live-sounding quality that resonates throughout the album. As in previous projects, the Pines continues to represent the classic roots sound that exemplifies the land the two members are familiar with.

“In writing songs, we try to take in the world that we move about in,” Huckfelt said. “A big part about being human is feeling that connection to the Earth.”

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