This fifth album probably ranks as the best work to date from the Minneapolis-based Pines, whose members include vocalist/guitarist David Huckelt and brothers Benson and Alex Ramsey.
Like its predecessors, Above the Prairie contrasts earthy, world-weary vocals with ethereal, atmospheric instrumentation. The Pines rely on acoustic and electric guitar, fiddle, flute, Uilleann pipes, and banjo to craft soundscapes that are consistently lilting and emotive, moody, and magical.
The album seems aptly named, as the songs appear to unfold in some airy, dreamlike space above the open prairies of America’s Midwest. Titles like “There In Spirit,” “Lost Nation,” and “Where Something Wild Still Grows” suggest the Pines’ lyrical preoccupations, which include the beauty of nature, the yearning for home and human connection, and the temporal nature of life.
Guest artists make significant contributions. “Here” is a family affair that features Benson and Alex’s father, Bo, who co-produced with the Pines, as well as Bo’s longtime cohort Greg Brown, Brown’s wife Iris Dement, and daughters Pieta and Constie. And the album closes with the haunting and poetic “Time Dreams,” which boasts an indelible spoken lyric by the late Native American activist John Trudell.