Pinetop Seven Beneath Confederate Lake

[Empyrean; 2006]

Styles: Americana, alt-country, post-rock
Others: Calexico, Mick Turner, Sparklehorse

Pinetop Seven is one of those bands that just oozes integrity with every album, song, and note. Despite (or because of) a constantly evolving membership, the band has consistently produced incredibly American albums, melding elements of jazz, folk, and, most prominently, country & western. That isn't to say that the band cheaply trades on pre-existing musical tropes. On the contrary, they mix elements to create intricate tapestries of the American soundscape, evoking all of the ideals and contradictions circulating throughout this conflicted nation.

Fans will find Beneath Confederate Lake to function nicely as a companion piece to 2005's The Night's Bloom, which is appropriate given that most of the tracks are from those recording sessions, supplemented with some pieces from a soundtrack (for the film Numinmata) and a few other miscellaneous tracks. Yet, like the music, the album collects these disparate elements and presents them as a solid whole with nary a hint of extraneousness or filler. Particularly wonderful are the instrumental tracks, with the flamenco-infused "High on a Summer's Tree" opening the album with a confident flourish. Not to be overlooked, Darren Richard's voice is a welcome presence as well. His plaintive vocals work especially well in the reworking of Tom T. Hall's "The Promise and the Dream." As politically charged a song now as it was in 1972, it plainly asks "America what happened to the promise and the dream?" To project this song's plea for America to embrace its espoused principles of freedom and liberty, Richard masterfully conveys a careful mix of disappointment and hope. But such careful mixing of tone has always been the norm for Pinetop Seven. As such, Beneath Confederate Lake is a worthy addition to the P7 catalog - one that fans shouldn't pass up.

1. High on a Summer's Tree
2. The Western Ash
3. Two Dead Men in a Vermont Graveyard
4. Lewis & Clark, Pt. 1
5. Canteen
6. Hurry Home Dark Cloud (Alternate Mix)
7. The Promise and the Dream
8. Fadograph of a Yestern Scene
9. Afterthought
10. Beneath Confederate Lake
11. Lewis & Clark, Pt. 2
12. Downstate