The Pink Stones “You Know Who”

Normal Town/New West Records, 2023

Reinvigorated country rock with hints of soul, gospel, psych and dub.

The local music scene of Athens, Georgia, which gave the world R.E.M., The B-52’s, The Drive-By Truckers, Vic Chesnutt, and countless others, is alive and well if The Pink Stones’ ‘You Know Who’ is anything to go by. The Pink Stones is a six-piece band comprising Athens musicians who have gigs with other bands, and ‘You Know Who’ is their second album, produced by The Drive-By Truckers producer Henry Barbe. Their 2021 debut album ‘Introducing…The Pink Stones’ wore the influences of real country and the country rock of Gram Parsons, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Poco, and the Grateful Dead on its sleeve, and brought a smile to the faces of listeners looking for something fresh in the country rock genre. Frontman Hunter Pinkston has said, “…there is a lot of soul and gospel and psych and dub” in the band’s music, to go with the country and country rock. With ‘You Know Who’ Pinkston and the band blend their influences and reference points better than they did on their debut, bringing a new sound to the Athens music scene and to anyone who listens to the album.

The album opens with a country waltz, ‘Roses & Poppies’, with fiddle and ex-Drive-By-Trucker John Neff’s pedal steel guitar to the fore. We are still deep in country territory for ‘Baby, I’m Still Right Here (With You)’, a duet with Nikki Lane that invokes the classic duets of George and Tammy, Conway and Loretta. We move on to a country shuffle with ‘Where We Have To Stay’ with a soundscape that has interesting additional textures. We are back to a waltz for ‘No Rain, No Flowers’ which uses gardening as an analogy to managing the end of a relationship. Melancholy is very hard to pull off musically if maudlin is to be avoided, and it gets even harder if you also bring a wry smile to the emotion, but The Pink Stones do it beautifully on ‘Moving On (Without You)’. One of the centrepieces of ‘You Know Who’ is ‘Who Is Laughing Now’with its upbeat sound and harmony vocals from  Terry and the Rough Riders, despite the heartbreak in the lyrics. Country piano is to the fore with the everpresent John Neff’s pedal steel guitar on ‘Someone You Can’t Move’. The title track mixes a reggae beat and some wah-wah guitar to the country rock sound. There is a bit of the loose feel of their namesake’s ‘Exile On Main St.’ to ‘Time’s Standing Still’, with its rock riff start and country waltz with sound effects middle. ‘Rich Rudy’ has a shuffle feel that is reminiscent of the Grateful Dead in the ‘70s. The album closes still evoking the ‘70s with ‘Stoned & Alone’.

While the members of The Pink Stones represent the cream of Athens’ musicians, there is little doubt that they are frontman Hunter Pinkston’s band. His songs give the band ample scope to stretch their musical muscles and manage that increasingly rare feat of creating something new by looking back to the past. Country rock has long been seen as an influence on americana, but not a particularly active genre. That changes with The Pine Stones and ‘You Know Who’. If you loved country rock just dive in, if you thought it was passé it is a great place to start listening to it.

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8/10
8/10

About Martin Johnson 408 Articles
I've been a music obsessive for more years than I care to admit to. Part of my enjoyment from music comes from discovering new sounds and artists while continuing to explore the roots of American 20th century music that has impacted the whole of world culture.
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