Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
Up that way in the country, up there in Minnesota where David Huckfelt and Benson Ramsey of The Pines have taken up their homes since they grew up in Iowa, is a different land entirely. Minneapolis still holds that big city heart, but then winter comes around like it does every year and you feel like you've been forsaken again. It won't be the last time and it puts a new layer of hide over your skin. If you continue a few hours north of the Twin Cities and head toward Duluth and the shores of Lake Superior, that hallowed ground where Bob Dylan was born, it's even more different of a place, a place that you could die out in and you'd go missing for weeks. There would be so many places to look for you where there are no people residing. We were up in those parts this spring, for a day and a night and, with the circumstances as they were, getting abysmally lost despite having maps, cell phones and a GPS system, it was a place that we thought we might die in, as the car quickly ran out of gas on dirt back roads that continually led to nowhere. There were no people, no lights, no animals, no humanity out there on that late night. There was no salvation, just a creeping dread, soggy roads and a feeling that we were quietly traveling into crazy town, where we were going to break down and become the snack for wolves or mongrel dogs, even after we'd cooled down to temperatures well below those that fresh meat should be enjoyed at.
We never got to the lake that day, but we saw plenty of skeptical dogs - dogs that have seen bad people, that have lived with bad people and are done with them. We have a feeling that the lake was a bloated mess that day, accepting the down-pouring rain, but feeling the strain as its banks were already heaving with the just completed melting of the snowfall. It was not a day to be out of doors. It was a day to be packed away, to stare out of the windows with a warm mug of something. It was the kind of day that Pines songs are written on.
It was a day that Huckfelt and Ramsey might hope for - for their own good. It would have made them see things for how stark and yet how complex they can be. There was a yearning in all of the scenery, which started off as impressive and expansive and then starting moving in on us, becoming bullish and almost evil, as if it knew what to do with people like us. It's the sense you get in a lot of Pines songs, where there's love and there's compassion in the face of less of it, or in the fading of it, but there's something else at work that has darker ideas churning. They sing, "We all stand exposed, shivering in the meadows' at dawn," and it seems as if it's not a line that has any particular scenario, but references most of our moments as they last and as they find us.