The Pine Hill Haints: Ghostly sounds from Alabama

The Pine Hill Haints make music they call "Alabama ghost country." It's hard to pin down eexactly what that means, but you'll know it when you hear it.
2010 Music City Roots
2010 Music City Roots / Beth Gwinn/GettyImages

The Pine Hill Haints is an American band known for its unique blend of musical styles, drawing inspiration from traditional folk, bluegrass, country, and, to a lesser extent, punk rock. The Pine Hill Haints hails from Alabama and was formed in the early 2000s.

Their music is often characterized by its raw and energetic sound, incorporating elements of old-time music with a contemporary twist. The band's lineup has included various members over the years, with Jamie Barrier (vocals, guitar, fiddle, harmonica), Katie Barrier (washboard, mandolin, musical saw, vocals), and Matt Bakula (washtub, tenor banjo) being some of the core members.

The Pine Hill Haints and "Alabama ghost country"

Katie Barrier
Katie Barrier plays the saw, 2010 Music City Roots / Beth Gwinn/GettyImages

Their instrumentation often features unconventional elements like washboards, washtub bass (AKA "Gutbucket"), and accordion, giving their music a distinct and rootsy feel. The Pine Hill Haints are associated with the "Alabama Ghost Music" genre, a term they coined to describe their particular sound. As one reviewer of the band quizically put it: "They play washboards... and a saw?"
Granted, in a hypothetical hierarchy of genres, one probably wouldn't mention this subgenre by name, but it's The Haints' story, and they're sticking to it.

Their lyrics often explore themes of Southern folklore, ghosts, and supernatural elements, adding a mysterious and slightly haunting quality to their music. As you listen to some of their spookier tunes, you may find yourself wondering if a ghost or stray skeleton might tap you on the shoulder. The band has released several albums, including Ghost Dance and To Win or To Lose.

Their discography is a decent introduction to "alt-folk" and reflects a commitment to preserving and reinventing traditional musical styles while infusing their work with a modern and rebellious spirit. Who knows? Maybe such critically overlooked albums will pick up steam?

How famous are The Pine Hill Haints?

The Pine Hill Haints aren't exactly superstars topping the charts, but they have gained a cult following for their energetic live performances and their ability to captivate audiences with their unique musical approach. It's safe to say they enjoy a bit of a cult following, as some musicians do.

That being said, even though they are relatively unique, there are obviously some other bands like them out there. The Legendary Shack Shakers and The Reverend Horton Heat spring to mind., as well as other acts that play country and folk with a bit of an edge.

Stray points

  • The Pine Hill Haints is not an original band in the way The Black Crowes are an original band. (I'm not sure if that makes sense or counts as a fact, but it sort of does, and is, at the same time.)
  • According to Single Lock Records' bio of the band, "the word 'haint,' of archaic English origin, means to haunt or to inhabit aggressively."