Personnel: Benson Ramsey (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, keyboards); David Huckfelt (vocals, acoustic guitar); Bo Ramsey (electric guitar, background vocals); Alex Ramsey (keyboards); J.T. Bates (drums); Adam Krinsky (tambourine).
Audio Mixer: Tom Tucker.
Recording information: Master's Recording Institute, Edina, MN.
Released in 2009, Tremolo continues along the slower, quieter, more acoustic path the Pines laid on their previous release, Sparrows in the Bell. Still a blues- and folk-influenced indie rock organization centered around David Huckfelt and Benson Ramsey, the Pines set a dark and mellow tone here while maintaining depth in arrangements and facility in performances. Even with collaborators like the album's producer, Benson's father Bo Ramsey (Greg Brown, Lucinda Williams), on guitar, the instruments tend not to draw the focus. Tremolo is a moody affair, about missing people and working things out and not instrument jams. Even the record's one instrumental, "Avenue of the Saints," is an atmospheric, almost ambient piece that fades out without arriving at a destination, musically speaking. The lyrics are often impressionistic, too, of moments and memories: "The bells of midnight chime/The moon and your shiny shoes/I've stumbled around so many towns/Dreaming of you." The album's two covers, Mississippi John Hurt's "Spike Driver Blues" and "Spider" John Koerner's "Skipper and His Wife," stay true to its tone and roots influences, and fit seamlessly among the original material. The record's peppiest song is probably the fingerpicking opener, "Pray Tell," which is still blues-heavy with a dejected vocal delivery and somber lyrics ("I been banished to the bone and tooth and lost in the turnstile of greed and fear"). Among roots fans, the album may come across as a little sleepy for aficionados of bluegrass or blues bar jams -- though there are morsels here for them, too -- but it might just hit the spot for those appreciative of proficient and contemplative Americana. ~ Marcy Donelson
Mojo (Publisher) (p.101) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[T]he 10 songs are indie folk-blues beauties, gentle, sometimes intricate, with dusty, intimate vocals."