The Pines : Pasture (Folk Songs)

The Pines Pasture CD-cover jpeg2015 Red House Records

Pasture (Folk Songs) is yet another masterful release by The Pines, the first since 2012’s Dark So Gold album (review see here). It’s a 7-song EP, clocking in at just under 30 minutes. And mighty fine ones at that. Traditionals such as Wild Bill Jones and Banks Of The Ohio accompany well-chosen cover versions by artists such as Greg Brown, Iris DeMent, Mance Lipscomb, Mason Jennings and Joe Price.

The Pines are usually described as Gothic Folk, which in my opinion is slightly misleading, on here I only find it fitting to describe the Mance Lipscomb song Looked Dow The Road And Wondered. To be fair, the band is using that association quite often, e.g. in their cover artworks with a scarecrow on the front cover of Dark So Gold and an American Gothic-window on the back cover of Pasture. What I find much more adequate to discribe their music are associations with Dream Pop and even Shoegaze, as a variety of acoustic and electric guitars provide a dreamy background to almost all of their songs. Alex Ramsey’s piano and keyboards and Benson Ramsey’s lazy, sleepy vocals on most tracks adding the final flourishes making their music so engaging and memorable.

This is for the most parts, entirely calm and peaceful music, although it’s by no means always slow and quiet, as on airy and folky Greg Brown composition Are You Ready For The Fair? (which turns out wonderful, naturally), or the afore-mentioned Looked Down The Road And I Wondered.

Both traditional murder ballads Banks Of The Ohio and Wild Bill Jones are among the best songs on here (although it’s damn near impossible to pick the highlights on an EP is fabulous as Pasture), with both turning out utterly lovely in stark contrast to their violent lyrics. Joe Price’s Down On The Highway and (Greg Brown wife) Iris Dement’s He Reached Down, which is based on the biblical story of the good shepherd, are showing the Pines at their most gentle, dreamlike, and best.

I admit, I am an absolute admirer of The Pines’ music, and I belive they are one of the most singular bands in today’s Folk-Pop music scene and far ahead of most of their peers. This is music that’s good for the soul and mind, combining all the best influences and creating something wonderful with every single one of their releases.

Oh, and, happily Benson and Alex’s dad, Bo Ramsey, contributes his distinctive excellent slide guitar talents to Down On The Highway – nobody I can think of could grace a song quite so sparsely, yet soulfully.

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Eldon, Iowa

This is the 2nd post from Eldon, Iowa on this blog (the first one’s about The American Gothic House can be found here ). My main reason for visiting this part of Iowa initially was watching the documentary Hacklebarney Tunes The Music Of Greg Brown (see the related post here), as he grew up partly in and around Eldon. As I read about the American Gothic House being located in Eldon I had all the more reason to make this a stop on my trip.  I went on a warm, sunny Sunday morning so there wasn’t a lot going on in the town.

Pink truck and silo, W Elm Street, Eldon, Iowa

W Elm Street, Eldon, Iowa

Wooden toy train, Eldon, Iowa

Rock Island Caboose, Eldon, Iowa

The American Gothic House, Eldon, Iowa

The American Gothic house is located in the small town of Eldon in southern Iowa. Regionalist painter Grant Wood saw it on a visit to Eldon in 1930 when he visited a friend called Edward Rowan who had started an art gallery and school in the town. It was built in 1881 and today is occupied by an old lady who (hopefully for her) apparently has gotten used to the stream of tourists coming to take photos of and in front of the house. The American Gothic House Center is offering a service to take your photo complete in a dress modelled on the one shown in the pointing, dungarees and a fork – I opted to take a photo of the house only. As you would expect, the exhibition in the Center is interesting too, filling in a lot of background knowledge about Grant Wood and the town of Eldon, I enjoyed my visit very much, and the town of Eldon is also lovely, small and rural – very much my kind of town.

American Gothic House, Eldon, IA

American Gothic House Center, Eldon, IA

Grant Wood’s First School

Antioch School, outside of Anamosa, Iowa. Regionalist painter, Grant Wood was born and raised on a farm a few miles outside of Anamosa, near where the school still stands. His family’s farm doesn’t exist anymore, but apparently stood somewhere northwest of here (towards the left of the first photo), it’s all been turned into fields.  Grant Wood is best known for his 1930 painting American Gothic, which I sadly still have to see (it’s hanging in the Art Institute Of Chicago, and I shall make it a priority to go and look at it on my next visit to Chicago.

He visited Antioch school from 1897 to 1901 and according to his sister Nan Wood Graham he was already impressed by the landscape around him at this age, which of course should creep up repeatedly in his later artworks.

Antioch School, Anamosa, Iowa

Antioch School, Anamosa, Iowa

Antioch School, Anamosa, Iowa

Antioach School, Anamosa, Iowa

I don’t know what the purpose of this building standing next to the school-house was, but note the gothic styled window, clearly a nod to American Gothic.

Two views of the surrounding countryside from the school grounds, as they probably would have appealed to Grant Wood.

Anamosa, Iowa countryside

Anamosa, Iowa countryside

There will be a few more posts related to Grant Wood in the future on this blog, as he was one of the main reasons for visiting Iowa on my trip, so watch this space.