It’s been a slow 12 months for The Pine Hill Haints.
“We’ve done a lot of playing, but we’ve always done a lot of playing,” says guitarfiddlevocals frontman Jamie Barrier. “We might have even done a little less.”
Truth is the North Alabama-based, Auburn-rooted, culture-bridging, genre-blurring jug band gods of A Good Time toured only six times in the past year.
And they were only deported once.
(… something about musicians and British labor laws and because after telling them he was there to “visit friends,” the only name that drummer Ben Rhyne could think to say when they asked who was “uh… Donald.”* That got them locked up for 24 hours and put on the first flight home. Who knows anybody named Donald?)
“Five of our six England shows were sold out,” Barrier says with a wistful little ‘sonofa…’ still in his voice. “The one in Ireland was going to be the biggest ever. It’s been a wild year, man, to win or to lose.”
Wild … and, deportation aside, mostly victorious, don’t let him fool you.
“To Win or To Lose,” the band’s appropriately titled new record (their 14th release since 2000 and second full-length album on Olympia, Wash.-based K Records) was released in the spring and has, thus far, received rave-ish reviews.
“The Pitchfork writeup was kind of big, you know, just ego-wise,” Barrier says. “People are still coming up to me about that.”
Also big? The names of the bands they’ve shared stages with since last summer … you know, like The Jesus Lizard and Pierced Arrows, like Calvin Johnson and Ian Svenonious … like Against Me! and Skid Row and the Strange Boys and The Coathangers and Japanther and Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers.
They’ve played festivals, they’ve played on hipster-charted California yachts, they’ve played Church of Christ-organized Lauderdale County fish fries.
So make that a slow, awesome 12 months …
But none of it, Barrier says, will compare to this Friday and Saturday … to a slow weekend (you know, just two shows and a football game ) back to where it all started and hearing the same people sing along just as loudly to your new songs that sang along to your first songs 10 years earlier.
Barrier graduated from Auburn in 1998. His wife, Katie, the Haints’ washboard/mandolin player, graduated in 2001. The band’s name itself comes from Auburn’s historic Pine Hill Cemetery. They used to practice there.
“I’ll be honest with you man,” Barrier says, “playing-wise, nothing is better than a good night in Waverly or at Fred’s Feed and Seed when it’s one of those bumpin’ nights and there’s a million people there and a bonfire and Alex has a cigar in his mouth and Phil’s there and there’s all these people dancing and pretty girls and, you know, you’re in a cotton barn or something.”
You can sing along with The Pine Hill Haints this Friday night at Fred’s Feed & Seed in Loachapoka and Saturday night after the game at The Independent in Auburn.
* Rhyne is the latest in a long line of Haints drummers with friends named “uh… Donald,” including The War Eagle Reader’s own J.M. Comer and Jeremy Dale Henderson.
Who: The Pine Hill Haints