The Pines perform in The Current studio

The Pines perform "Hanging from the Earth" off the album Above the Prairie live in The Current studio. (MPR)
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The Pines perform in The Current studio (full session and interview)
| 26:12
  • The Pines perform in The Current studio (full session and interview) 26:12
  • The Pines - Aerial Ocean (Live on The Current) 04:28
  • The Pines - Where Something Wild Still Grows (Live on The Current) 03:57
  • The Pines - Hanging from the Earth (Live on The Current) 05:47

On their new album, Above the Prairie, out this month on Red House Records, the Pines tap into a deep reservoir of longing and heartache. After a decade of making music together, bandleaders Benson Ramsey and David Huckfelt have mastered the art of ambiance and atmosphere; Above the Prairie feels like a journey to another time and place, and feels untethered from reality.

"There might have been a time where, earlier on, we made an effort to create space in the music. But I think as we've continued to songwrite together, that space is kind of baked in there. It's not conscious; it's not a choice. It's just giving the mind the space to wander, and having patience in the songs," says Huckfelt.

While in the studio recording Above the Prairie, the band took time to reflect on their rural upbringing in small-town Iowa, and how that longing for simpler times comes across in their new songs. "You sort of romanticize things after you've been gone. And you can't really go back," Ramsey reflects. "I mean, the towns we're from are so different and kind of unrecognizable from when we were growing up."

"I think maybe it's less nostalgia, and more trying to kind of create a refuge in your present tense, and carry that slowness into a life that's pretty crazy, and increasingly distracting and difficult," adds Huckfelt. "The challenges to try to remain grounded are pretty tough. So I think for us, the rural part of it – it's not so much wishful thinking, as it is just having that kind of be a refuge in yourself, as you go about and try to deal with life. "

Huckfelt and Ramsey were joined in The Current studio by Benson's brother, Alex, on keys, and the trio performed stripped-down versions of the songs "Aerial Ocean," "Where Something Wild Still Grows," and "Hanging from the Earth," one of Benson Ramsey's most personal and honest songs to date.

Before performing that final and intensely beautiful song, I had to ask Benson about the decision to record a song that so literally and directly addresses life's struggles.

"It's poignant but it's not, really," he said. "It just kind of flew out at the last minute. I was really uncensored, and I thought it was really stupid. And then I just kind of let go. It could be all BS. Who knows where that stuff comes from."

Whether it's "BS" or not, the song turned out beautifully. It's one of the many highlights on Above the Prairie, and one of the Pines' most achingly emotional songs to date.

The Pines celebrate the release of the new album with a show at the First Avenue mainroom on Friday, March 18 (with support from Phil Cook and Stolyette), and a show in Duluth the next night, March 19, at Sacred Heart.

Songs Performed

"Aerial Ocean"
"Where Something Wild Still Grows"
"Hanging from the Earth"

Hosted by Andrea Swensson
Produced by Andrea Swensson
Engineered by Mike DeMark
Web feature by Andrea Swensson

11 Photos

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    Benson Ramsey of the Pines perform live in The Current studio (MPR / Nate Ryan)
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    David Huckfelt of the Pines performing live in The Current studio (MPR / Nate Ryan)
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    The Pines in The Current studio (MPR / Nate Ryan)
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    The Pines in The Current studio (MPR / Nate Ryan)
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    David Huckfelt of the Pines performing live in The Current studio (MPR / Nate Ryan)
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    Benson Ramsey of the Pines performing live in The Current studio (MPR / Nate Ryan)
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    Alex Ramsey performing with the Pines live in The Current studio (MPR / Nate Ryan)
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    David Huckfelt of the Pines performing live in The Current studio (MPR / Nate Ryan)
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    The Pines performing live in The Current studio (MPR / Nate Ryan)
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    Benson Ramsey of the Pines performing live in The Current studio (MPR / Nate Ryan)
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    The Pines performing live in The Current studio (MPR / Nate Ryan)