The Burnt Pines - Don't Look Down
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Don't Look Down (Adraela, 2023)

The Burnt Pines

Reviewed by Jim Hynes

"Don't Look Down" is the follow-up to The Burnt Pines' self-titled 2021 debut. The trio first came together in a Lisbon, Portugal recording studio in the summer of 2018, with two of them having met prior to that at Boston's esteemed Berklee College of Music. They are Danish-born singer and lyricist Kris Skovmand, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Aaron Flanders, and Portuguese-born keyboard player and arranger Miguel Sa Pessoa. Returning also are Fernando Huergo on 5-string electric bass, Luis Barros on drums and percussion and Dan Fox (one track) on upright bass. New additions include Erica Leigh for backgrounds on "Bring Out Your Book" and Mariana Lebre Torres on "Welcome Home!" Joe Cunningham plays a gritty tenor sax on "Ghost Living in My Beer."

Their gentle brand of folk-rock continues in a mostly smooth, free flowing, lush, layered blend of acoustic and electric. Thematically, the three songwriters cover relatable subjects such as divorce, escapism and redemption while weaving in healthy portions of weirdness in the forms of aliens and ghosts.

Opening with the front porch, bouncy "Bring Out Your Book: we hear Skovmand's vocals, harp on the rack and lyrics paired with Leigh's harmonies. The title track moves briskly and upbeat with catchy hooks as does the nod to resilience in the poppy "Pushing On."

Darker tones imbue "What Did You Come Back For?," "Angels and Violence" and the standout ode to the bleak breakup in the piano driven "Daytime TV." Scovmand has a happy, quirky side as well, depicted by hailing the aliens in "Welcome Home!" Sa Pessoa's jazz background reveals itself on rambunctious "The Ghost Living in My Beer." Throughout, the blend of Scovmand's vocals and Flanders' guitar are a potent force, equally case on the two penned by Flanders – the aforementioned message of encouragement in "Pushing On" and his holdover from the 2016 election "In From the Outside."

The closer, a cover of Jethro Tull's "Skating Away (On the Thin Ice of the New Day)," offers perhaps the most exuberant moments. The Burnt Pines bring a stirring, glistening brand of folk rock that invites repeated listens due to the superior musicianship, harmonies and the kind of hooks that will have you singing along. They have clearly avoided any sophomore jinx.

CDs by The Burnt Pines

Don't Look Down, 2023 The Burnt Pines, 2021

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