The Pine Hill Haints are a bit of a modern rockabilly jug-band mixed with a punk rock spirit. Though singer and primary songwriter, Jamie Barrier might call it “The Spirit of 1812.”
I first saw the Haints at Sluggo’s a few years back, and they have been all over the world and accrued quite a following since their 2000 debut. Such an innovative musical concoction as the Haints has an appeal much broader than the “folk-punk” category they are often associated with.
The Haints describe their sound as “Alabama Ghost Music.” It’s a mixed assortment of southern roots music from bluegrass, to ragtime, rockabilly and honky-tonk, upbeat and with eerie and supernatural themes. Named after the Pine Hill Cemetery, the Haints are inspired by local Alabama legends and ghost stories. A haint is after all a particularly deep southern term for a ghost or haunt.
But the Haints aren’t dreary and gothic. To me, they have a sound that seems to just emanate from the ground of the American South, like the past 250 years of Southern history and culture has taken the form of band. With songs like “Whisper in the Dark,” and “Tennessee River Rambler” you get a real sense of backwoods punkabilly that would make Buddy Holly proud, while tunes like “Bordello Blackwidow” and “Walking Talking Dead Man” could be Calypso numbers straight from the repertoire of the Mighty Sparrow.
A PHH show is a hootenanny, rowdy and with an anachronistic flair, with lead singer and guitarist Jamie Barrier energetically jumping and jiving behind a handmade wooden mic stand reminiscent of the Grand Ole Opry.
The whole show is reminiscent to a bygone era with an unmistakably modern twist. The sound texture developed by the hodgepodge of Jamie’s guitar, Matt Bakula’s washtub bass and banjo, Ben Rhyne’s snare drum, Katie Barrier’s mandolin and washboard can’t help but make you feel like you’re witnessing an old rock and roll show just upon the invention of electric amplification.
The Haints are a band to see, and hear with wide appeal and a timeless sound that can be appreciated by punk rockers and hillbillies alike, between the ages of 5 and 105. They are one of those few musical acts that can truly bring different genres, generations and social groups together.