The Pine Hearts “Carousel” (Independent, 2018)

The Pine Hearts are the brainchild of Joey Cappocia, who set about pulling together a group of the most talented local musicians he could find from around his home in the Pacific Northwest. The result of this endeavour was the recruitment of mandolinist Derek McSwain and Dean Shakked on upright bass and the subsequent formation of The Pine Hearts, named after the area of natural beauty in Olympia, WA where Cappocia was raised.

The sound of The Pine Hearts and ‘Carousel’ is classic roots music, leaning towards a more bluegrass sound, however, this is more of a reflection of the instruments they use on the record and the trio manage a contemporary feel through the vocals of frontman and guitarist Cappocia whose voice doesn’t necessarily reflect the roots genre in a traditional sense but complements the gentle tone of the record perfectly throughout.

Opener ‘Living With Depression’ has a lo-fi feel at first and keeps things simple with just vocals and acoustic guitar accompanied by minimal instrumentation to give the track a bit of depth. The song also features some great harmonies utilising the vocal talents of the trio and showcasing their ability early on. From here on, the roots influences become a lot clearer through the country waltz of ‘The Pedal Steel Let Me Down Easy,’ the violin led ‘Open Road’ and through to the classic, upbeat bluegrass number ‘Good Luck By The Sea,’ the group wear their influences on their sleeves but own the sound very well by making it their own. Cappocia even steps aside for a moment to hand over lead vocal duties to another member of the group on the latter track whose voice is seemingly more suited to the sound they are trying to achieve and rightly so as the result is textbook bluegrass.

Other notable tracks on the record are ‘Back to Sustain’ which again features some fantastic harmonies and an infectious string arrangement, ‘Keep It Warm’ which is a tender introspective ballad and is an album standout, certainly for fans of a more introspective lyrical style and penultimate album track ‘Crying For Another’ which again see’s Cappocia step aside, potentially in order to concentrate on playing the guitar as the fingerwork here is nothing short of awesome!

As a whole ‘Carousel’ showcases a band firmly rooted in a traditional sound and whilst it borrows heavily from the sounds of early bluegrass and country, the group manage to mix and match the genres so well that it keeps the album itself interesting from start to finish, but also allows it to stand on its own two feet as a contemporary body of work from a trio of talented musicians inspired by, but not copying, those whose music they grew up listening to.

8/10

Summary

Traditional roots music with a contemporary twist

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