In the Whispering Pines

 L.A.'s singing cowboys and sistagirls ride the tide of roots revival

Call them bootcut, call them Allman-riffic: Whispering Pines

This is the year when your scribing cowgirl returns wholly to the barn — or at least the fabled Cabin-in-the-Ppines where folks used to pick, grin, and get up to no good throughout my father's youth in southwest Georgia. And sho'nuff the Whispering Pines' fine, self-released debut, Family Tree (self-released), will be in tow alongside the potbelly stove, vintage Akan gold weights, and patchwork spreads courtesy of my late great-aunt, the hedonistic quilter Kate.

Family Tree served as fitting accompaniment not just to holiday doldrums but also the tail end of sonic voting season — when the results of the Nashville Scene's ninth annual Country Music Critics Poll, which I contributed to, heralded the genre's likely future. While I don't disagree with anointing Brad Paisley and Miranda Lambert for a soon-come twang Mount Rushmore, and would give my right pinky toe to cut a record with the great outlaw heir Jamey Johnson, the psychedelicized wing of cowboy music needs more recognition as its revival reaches its maturity. And it seems we ought not to wait a year or more to claim what's worthy. So here's stepping out in Topanga dirt at the ghost site of the ole Corral on behalf of the Whispering Pines' efforts.

Family Tree, reaching back to twang's glorious midcentury of pioneering fusions to fetch sounds for envisioning the near-future, is surely as much of an aesthetic atlas for country's current progression as Brother Johnson's stunning commingled pathos and mirth on "Mowin' Down the Roses" or "Women." Of course, the long-haired and denim-clad quintet of Brian Filosa (bass, vocals), Joe Bourdet (guitar, vocals), Dave Baine (keys, guitar, vocals), Joe Zabielski (drums, percussion), and David Burden (harmonica, percussion, vocals) abide and create in a vastly different space than Music Row or the plains and Rust Belt enclaves of Midwestern alt-country. This is reflected in the sunny clarity of their sound and sometimes mellower lyrical concerns. Silver Lake's Whispering Pines is part of a loose, freewheeling confederacy of young SoCal-based solo artists and groups who purvey what some used to call "wooden music" and my friend Zach a.k.a. DJ Turquoise Wisdom has taken to terming "bootcut."

This movement has bubbled under during recent years, yet has seemed to enjoy quite a spike recently. Over the last 18 months, several colleagues released histories of Laurel Canyon; maxi dresses (or "town gowns") were deemed chic in downtown Manhattan and Los Angeles' Echo Park; and Kamara Thomas' Honky Tonk Happy Hour at assorted New York City venues reminded audiences that the East Coast has a rich stake in cosmic country, too. Likewise, Hair's ballyhooed Broadway run and Taking Woodstock reacquainted the fickle masses with festivals and freaky-deak; Neil Young dropped volume one of his storied Archives; SoHo sported a vintage store actually called Laurel Canyon, replete with embroidered western shirts, perfectly-scuffed boots, and Gunne Sax; my friend Henry Diltz' iconic images of CSN and their friends crowned a blockbuster exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum; and Levon Helm just won a Grammy for Electric Dirt (Dirt Farmer Music/Vanguard Records). This past month, New Jersey's Wiser Time put out their strongest evidence of a northeastern-minted "Southern rock," Beggars and Thieves (Wiser Time). A slate of Essra Mohawk reissues is in the wings.


First great album of 2010! Thank you for the introduction!

Posted by Guest on Feb. 25, 2010 @ 2:06 pm

I picked up a copy randomly...thought the cover art looked great and the album is pretty fantastic too!

Posted by ty on Feb. 25, 2010 @ 2:11 pm

Come on boys! No Bay area dates on the calender yet? Get up here!

Posted by alisa on Feb. 25, 2010 @ 5:16 pm

Great review. They are great in concert, too. Hope to see more of them. Artwork on CD is amazing, too. Thanks so much. A Fan

Posted by Guest on Feb. 26, 2010 @ 7:42 am

Who are these guys and why are they not on the cover of Rolling Stone!

Posted by Guest on Feb. 26, 2010 @ 11:06 am

I love the idea of having four different lead singers...switching off on the songs keeps things fresh. This album reminds me of CSNY's Deja Vu...four different voices that still blend nicely into one outstanding whole. It's bluesy, soul country rock and roll at it's best. Nice to see young men keeping this staple sound alive!

Posted by alela on Feb. 27, 2010 @ 2:11 pm

So many of the bands today who try and tackle this sound have it all wrong... Whispering Pines thankfully are for real. Their tunes are crafted in a way that possess all that was great in rock and roll music and none of the unpleasantries we've been subjected to in recent years.Their tones are classic, vocals are soulful and honest to the ear, The overall production on this album really couldn't be more spot on. These are California boys but they are well steeped in the music heritage this country offers from west to east coasts. Cheers to a work well crafted. It's much appreciated.

Posted by Neil on Mar. 01, 2010 @ 11:09 am

taking the coast down south this weekend!
i think this is gonna make a great record!

Posted by guest on Mar. 01, 2010 @ 12:34 pm

Pines are coniferous trees in the genus Pinus in the family Pinaceae. They make up the monotypic subfamily Pinoideae. Pines are native to most of the Northern Hemisphere.

Posted by replica watches on Mar. 02, 2010 @ 11:22 pm

The new generations rightful heirs to Burrito Brothers...New Riders...Little Feat California sonic magic.Thanks for great work!

Posted by guest on Mar. 08, 2010 @ 8:32 pm

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