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Published: 2012/09/19
by Brian Robbins

Whispering Pines
Whispering Pines


Listening to Whispering Pines’ self-titled sophomore album from start to finish is like stumbling onto a late-night broadcast from an FM station that’s been lost in the ozone for 40-odd years, just reaching human ears for the first time. The five-man band might hail from California, but their sound has more to do with a time than a place – and a grand time, at that.

“Move On” ushers Whispering Pines in with David Burden’s bluesy harp growlin’ and a’whinin’ over top of David Baine’s ominous swamp keys. A no-nonsense burst of guitar from Joe Bourdet clears the way for drummer Joe Zabielski and bassist Brian Filosa to come slamming in. The first couple of verses are bad-boy swagger – “Not the man your Daddy wanted/Not the boy your Momma needed” – launching into a rip-snorting rave-up that recalls The Yardbirds at their raunchiest. Back to a final verse and chorus (“You know this ain’t the first time/I know this ain’t the last time”) and – wham! – they’re outta there; mission accomplished in 3:26. (With the promise of some serious jammed-out plaster shaking if they’d had a mind to.) Darn tootin’.

Let Whispering Pines spin and breathe it in: “One More Second Chance” feels like a slightly-crunchier-but-just-as-happy Lovin’ Spoonful. So does “Fine Time”, before taking the doors off the hinges with a “Midnight Rambler”-style blow-out at the end. The just-right-but-not-too-slick harmonies of “Love Is Free” (think Megafaun) are fun all by themselves; the driving percussion that propels the song’s middle section is a Manassas-flavored bonus. And “Broken Spoke” – lovely bits of mando, harp, and acoustic guitar woven betwixt sing-along choruses – could’ve closed out the Ronnie Lane/Pete Townshend Rough Mix album proudly.

The quintet repeatedly pulls off that same sort of “Wait – how’d we get here? ” sonic shape-shifting that makes Goose Creek Symphony’s music so appealing. Put an ear to “Come & Play”: after a couple of powerful opening chords that sweetly reek of the summer of 1970, the band settles into a downhome dangling-legs-off-a-pickup’s-tailgate groove. After a verse of rubbery bass dancing in the hay with bits of smiling mouth harp, there’s a pause; the rhythm hovers as the blue sky overhead morphs into psychedelic swirls of color … sheeeeeit! The barnyard becomes the Fillmore East as the keys lock in with the bass and drums to pound out a tension-filled foundation for some beautifully apeshit guitar to ricochet off of. A spiral of sound – a pause – a breath … and the sky turns blue again and the chickens mutter to themselves as they peck in the dirt. You’ll smile while looking back over your shoulder, wondering “What just happened …?” In the nicest of ways.

There are numerous familiar essences throughout Whispering Pines, but no direct quotes. The music is theirs, through and through.

Whispering Pines just happens to know what you like.

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