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To Win or to Lose

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Album Review

Who said washboards and washtubs don't belong in rock? Continuing to add the hillbilly to rockabilly, the Pine Hill Haints fine-tune their junkyard sound while taking a slightly darker turn on their second album for K Records, To Win or to Lose. Lyrically, the songs often follow the travels of folks who are down on their luck — specifically hobos, vagabonds, and dumpster divers — but despite depressing undertones, the record still manages to be mostly upbeat. Heck, It's not easy to hold a frown in the middle of a fiddle-sawing, banjo-plucking hoedown. Like their previous efforts, the Haints mix up bluegrass, honky tonk, Americana, and bluesy shuffles here, but this time they take things a step further and explore new ground. "Bordello Blackwidow" takes calypso inspiration from Harry Belafonte, and Jamie Barrier and his gang even try their hand at two traditional covers, letting loose some "yeehaws!" on Woody Guthrie's outlaw country ballad "The Ranger's Command" and attempting to sing in French (albeit filtered through a slackjaw twang) in "Je Passe Devant Ta Porte." A few moments could be considered overly self-indulgent, but even if the record loses its way a few times, for the most part, it's a solid effort. When the down-home boys and girls keep their chins up and stick to their roots, things really cook. "Charley Horse" is a sh*t-kickin', boot-stompin' jamboree, and "Never Cry" is a spirited romp that's catchy enough to please fans of both new-fangled modern music and old-time rock & roll.


Formed: 1998 in Huntsville, AL

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Taking inspiration from roots music and Southern tales of the supernatural, the Pine Hill Haints play a self-described style of "Alabama ghost country" that touches upon honky tonk, rockabilly, folk, and bluegrass. As a child, vocalist Jamie Barrier often joined his grandfather in attending local hootenannies, where he was exposed to the musical traditions of his native Alabama. Later, Barrier honed his own voice by singing in a graveyard -- the Pine Hill Cemetery -- and formed a raucous rockabilly...
Full bio
To Win or to Lose, The Pine Hill Haints
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