There’s a tendency to use the term ‘country’ albeit sparingly with the more famous Athens, GA-based bands, The Drive-by Truckers (DBTs), and to some extent Bloodkin, yet The Pink Stones are by far the most country of the three. They fall into the camp of Cosmic American Music, whose patron saint is Gram Parsons. In a real sense, The Pink Stones represent a second generation of Athens bands. Producer and engineer Henry Barbe is the son of David Barbe who remains a critical linchpin to the success of the DBTs and the re-emergence of Bloodkin who will release their first project in over a decade next week. Another common element that the three bands share is pedal steeliest John Neff, who began his tenure as a fill-in when he sat in on pedal steel for a few shows and decided to stay. A founding member of Drive-By Truckers, Neff is a long-time veteran of the Athens music scene and has brought his experience and a sense of legacy to the group where his pedal steel is a vital element of every song. So, let’s ‘introduce’ the other band members who play on …Introducing.
The band gestated in 2015 when then freshman college-student and punk rocker Hunter Pinkston (vocals, multiple instruments) bought a special single by one of his favorite bands, The Lemonheads. The song was “Brass Buttons” delivered on one side by that band and on the other by its author, Gram Parsons. This was an epiphany kind of moment for Pinkston who never realized he liked that type of country music and from there embarked on listening to Parsons’ catalog and its various branches. A native of Albany, Georgia, Pinkston grew up in a family of music fans with two sisters who played guitar and a father who lived the rock’n’roll life as a young man, even to the point of opening for The Allman Brothers while playing in a local band.
Pinkston began forming his own bands in high school and gravitated toward punk and hardcore until his B-side revelation. He started writing songs by revisiting sounds he heard as a kid, Neil Young as a foremost influence. Pinkston’s exploration of musical styles and maturity as a songwriter accelerated in 2016 when he transferred to the University of Georgia Music Business program and found himself immersed in the vital and diverse Athens music scene. Pinkston also began meeting the musicians — Will Anderson (keyboards), Logan Brammer (guitars, vocals), Adam Wayton (bass), and Jack Colclough (drums)— who would form the core of The Pink Stones. “At first I was playing my new material with people I’d played hardcore with,” Pinkston says. “As they started to fall out, new people fell into place. Will, Logan, and Adam were all in the music business program with me, and Jack was playing drums in another band that we share members with and started filling in when our first drummer quit.” While Pinkston may be the principal songwriting, credits on all songs go to the entire band. Henry Barbe and Winston Barbe provide additional guitar support as vocalist Jessica Thompson.
The melodic and psychedelic swirl of the Cosmic Country sound appears on the album’s opener and first single, “Blueberry Dream” which is bookended nicely by the closer by the similar sounding “Dream So Sweetly.” They impress with the nostalgic romanticism of “Put Me On” and the darkly comic take on love and obsession in the lightly strummed, “Shiny Bone” with its analogy to a dog – “… And I wish I could go on, but my brain won’t let me/Got taught like a dog and I’m not quite done fetching/Cuz you’re a shiny bone/Always call me home, call me home.” While the band proves they can deliver the hazy, desert-like fare of Parson, they also gear up for more rocking honky tonkers such as “Barroom Blues,” perhaps more indicative of their live shows.
Especially notable is their ability to play with restraint, especially given their youth and harder punk backgrounds. They’ve managed to embrace some of the more subtle aspects of this kind of music, weaving in heartache and self-deprecating humor. It’s their casual approach, with multiple vocals and a concerted band that also impresses as heard on the dancehall waltz “Let’s Sit Down” and the album’s third single, “Love Me Hardly.” So, the term ‘country rock’ has taken a back seat to genre descriptions such as ‘alt-country’ and ‘Americana’ over the past couple of decades. The Pink Stones may just revitalize it as they become a new entrant in the enduring, literate, and in a sense genre agnostic music scene which is Athens, GA.
- Jim Hynes
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