The Pine Hill Haints Ghost Dance

Appalachian folk band the Pine Hill Haints run through a rich history of songs, making it difficult to tell where some classic balladry ends and their freshly written traditionals begin. Recorded in part by Calvin Johnson, Ghost Dance draws its name from a late 19th century Native American movement and the four-piece band infuse some socio-political commentary into their punk arrangements. That said, there’s a great jovial spirit to songs like "Garden of the Dead” and "Whisper in the Dark,” where guitars, fiddles, washboards, mandolins, banjos, saws and snare drums cohere most excellently. Just after the Sun Records sound of "Catfish Angels,” the Haints present a trio of standards in "St. James Infirmary Blues,” Clarence Ashley’s "Cuckoo Bird” and a song popularised by Bill Monroe called "Columbus Stockade Blues.” The raw emotion and lo-fi, old world sound inject the songs with pumping blood, just as the field recording quality of the banjo-led "Ol’ White Thang Blues” is the spooky stuff of resurrections. Sequenced with great care, Ghost Dance is a mysterious, fascinating album. (K)