Something about the thunderstorms and all this cemetery research I’ve been doing lately brings home the cravings for an Alabama ghost playlist. What is “ghost music”? I feel it when I hear it.
The Pine Hill Haints, an Auburn-hailing Alabama folk-punk band composed of Jamie Barrier on guitar and vocals, wife Katie “Kat” Barrier on washboard and mandolin, Matt Bakula on washtub bass and tenor banjo, and Ben Rhyne on snare drum, keep hopping through my head.
The band’s name comes from the Pine Hill Cemetery in Auburn, Alabama where they occasionally used to practice- a beautiful cemetery ripe for wanderings, wonderings, and revelations that slip in through conversations.
In Dave’s words:
Pine Hill Haints attracts an audience that likes songs about the cursed nature of the world—people that have gone to the dark side and found it uplifting. Real weirdos and rebels gather around this band and its junk instruments. The rawness feels natural and natural feels honest. People who believe in things you’re not supposed to believe are drawn to Pine Hill’s spooky bosom and folklore. Alabama’s self-proclaimed punk band makes music that embraces doom and the great lonesomeness of life in order to find everlasting joy. This basically makes Pine Hill Saints a good band for the end of the world.
And, thanks to Dave’s interview, we also learn that singer Jamie Barrier actually loves Alabama. Big, scary words to suggest in Los Angeles, where loving Alabama suggests you like to dress in military uniforms and be the hero of your local Civil War reenactment.
Why do you stay in Alabama?
I love Alabama too much. I enjoy it. I like forests, creeks. I like my family. I like the music. I like L.A. and everywhere else as well. I’m not saying we are better than nobody else. It’s just where I’m from.
Have you ever seen a ghost?
Possibly. But I don’t think I want to get into that.
Let’s just leave it at this, anything is possible.
Maybe the Haints were raised on the ghost tales of Kathryn Tucker Windham. Or maybe they know that you can’t live in Dixie without running into (or away from) a ghost or two. The dead are just part of the scenery. So maybe Barrier believes more than he lets on. He recounts a local ghost tale in a different interview:
Right down from my momma and daddy’s house there’s this old trail. The Choctaws claimed that trail was there before they ever arrived. Today, it’s called the Natchez Trace. On that Trace, people see these white horses—many people have said they’ve seen a white horse. Sometimes, two horses walking side by side—that’s like some sign of death. Well, there was these thieves who murdered and blundered their way down the trace. Right south of Alabama on the trace is a place where the grass doesn’t grow. People say that’s where the witches dance. Nothing will grow there. And these thieves ran up and down the trace, heedless of the witches, heedless of the hard-boiled Baptist preachers and everybody else, robbing, thieving, and cutting throats. And they’d run down to New Orleans from Natchez, Mississippi and spend their money. One of those boys got caught in the little town on the Mississippi/Alabama state line, and they cut his head off, stuck it on a post outside of town, and left it there to rot until it became this white skull. The other guy had seen the skull, but he kept on killing and robbing. But he got caught and while he was in jail he saw the white horse walking up the trace and looking at him. And right after he saw the horse, this old lady came out of the woods and took the skull from the post. People said that she ground that skull into powder.
Ah yes, time for some Alabama ghost music. Burn the playlist and find yourself a little ole grave to haunt.
First a few from The Pine Hill Haints.
You’re Gonna Need Somebody on Your Bond (mp3)
All My Rowdy Friends Are Dead (mp3)
Don’t Wait for Six Strong Men to Carry You to Church (mp3)
Now the story of the Ghost of Old Salem and Ghost Town Road.
Now a little ditty from Alabama storyteller Kathryn Tucker Windham.
Tree Sitting (mp3)
A special one from the deserving Balthrop, Alabama, a sublime little name for a band if I must comment.
And one more foot-tapping, skirt-swinging tune from The Pine Hill Haints.
My Bones Are Gonna Rise Again (mp3)