Pine Box Boys 1500The Pine Box Boys is a band from San Francisco, California see their website here (opens in a new window). The band was formed in 2003. Originally, the idea was to call themselves “The Pine Coffin Boys”, but it seemed too intense for a band name and maybe also a bit obvious. There are a lot of pine boxes in the gothic country genre. Pine box or pinebox is American slang and refers to a simple coffin (unplaned pine). It's very cheap. The Pine Box Boys is a perfect band name for a "bloodgrass", “darkgrass”, “murdergrass”, "muddy roots", “horrorbilly” or “gothic bluegrass” band. The band consists of frontfigure Lester T. Raww (guitar and vocals), “Colonel” Timothy Leather (upright bass), Steven “Your Uncle” Dodds (drums) and Alex “Possum” Carvidi (banjo and vocals). Before they became The Pine Box Boys three-quarters of the band were “The Zag Men”, a noise band with a taste of Zappa-esque stage antics. They used to perform soundtracks to silent horror films. The difference between the former and the latter could be summarized in no murder, just mayhem. The Pine Box Boys isn’t a slick and delicate West Coast band. In fact, not one of the four boys are from San Francisco. Their music style and physical appearance is very Southern including long hair, bushy beards, Edward Gorey-ish neckties and needlenose cowboy boots.

     

Pine Box Boys 2Frontfigure Lester T. (T stands for Tombstone) Raww grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas. On their website Lester blames his mother the emphasis of murder, misery, zombies and generally unapolegetic acts of mayhem. "My mother grew up REAL country, and she raised me on all those old songs. Before bed, she would sing murder ballads to me such as "Pretty Polly," "Skin and Bones Lady," and "The Knoxville Girl." She also liked horror films." In an interview with the San Francisco Examiner in 2013 Lester explained “The songs might be scary, but your mom's singing them to you while she's rocking you to sleep, so you still feel secure. So to me, those old songs are like wrapping up in a blanket on a cold winter night.” Lester's upbringing led into a unique brand of music. The original plan was to perform new versions of old murder ballads. However, soon Lester found himself composing his own murder ballads. As stated in other articles writing a murder ballad doesn’t mean that you're planning to kill someone in the near future (or even considering it). It's just an imaginative play with concepts and symbols. The concept of death in art has also a deeper and symbolic meaning than death in normal life. The actual murders are a secondary matter. It's the deception, despair, remorse and the divine justice that's important. Of course, this is all common knowledge for everybody with the slightest interest in the gothic country genre.

   

Pine Box Boys 3The Pine Box Boys have an odd setup of instruments. Most bluegrass bands would probably replace the drums with either a second guitar or a mandolin. However, the band has a hard-core approach to bluegrass and a deep respect for trash metal bands like Slayer. The drums are there to stay. The Pine Box Boys have labeled themselves as "rock musicians masquerading as bluegrass." Lester T. Raww has declared: “In my mind, I wanted something that sounded like Willie Nelson in a punk band. I even tried to play a nylon-string guitar hoping it would sound like Trigger [a Martin N-20 nylon-string classical acoustic guitar used by Willie Nelson, my remark]. This did not work. At all. So, I switched to a Martin; we sped up the tunes to bluegrass velocities and, well, here we are.” Their music has been described by San Francisco Weekly as “pitch-black, fetishistic tales of Americana gone awry, equal parts rock and bluegrass with a molten core of avant-garde freakishness”. The Pine Box Boys are, by gothic country standards, quite succesful and famous. They have toured in US and in Europe and also played with .357 String Band – a mark of quality if anything. At least, in my opinion. The Pine Box Boys seem to fit in everywhere. Even when they saunter in the cobblestone alleys in medieval towns of Western Europe with cowboy hats and boots (Picture taken from their album). This anachronistic picture of the boys shows one thing. Good and honest music travels far without boundaries.

 

Pine Box Boys 4The Pine Box Boys combines a traditional (paying homage to the genre) and untraditional approach (infusing punk and metal) to the bluegrass genre. Some of their albums have a very hard expression while some have a softer edge. The Pine Box Boys doesn't seem to ponder very much about the future direction of their music. Lester T. Raww writes all music and is a very gifted songwriter. He has a respectable job as high school dean under his real name. In an interview with the San Francisco Examiner in 2013 he said “I don't hide my ink, and I don't have to curb who I am that much while I'm there. You're not getting any additional respect from a student because you decided to show up dressed like a banker — kids just don't respond to that.” Lester T. Raww explains: “I'm the guy who comes by and takes your knife away if you're bringing a knife to class, and the one who tracks you down if you're not showing up to school”. Some students have figured out his alias and listened to their albums. I'm pretty sure that Lester T. Raww doesn't have any problems with lack of respect or discipline in his contacts with students. Movies are very rare in the gothic country genre. The Pine Box Boys have made a close to zero-budget concert film "Good Evening Folks, We're the Pine Box Boys" in 2009. The movie was directed by no less than Dr. Astronaut Body (so far his only film). The Pine Box Boys have been playing together since 2003, which is a long time for any band in this article series. The conditions in the genre are hostile and the survival rate statistics is depressing. My assessment is that the Pine Box Boys know what they do and will continue to do what they do. One thing they really know is to introduce themselves. "Good Evening Folks, We're the Pine Box Boys and we write songs about horrible occurrences." Excessive murders without irony is boring. There's no shortage of irony in their music. On the contrary, it overflows with irony, observations and sardonic remarks.

 

Pine Box Boys logo

 

The Pine Box Boys have released four albums. Their debut album "Arkansas Killing Time" was released in 2005. The reputable site cdbaby declared: "Murder ballads one after the other and, not halfway through, enough to make you queasy." The album art was designed by Wang Kruntz. Their second album “Stab!” was released in 2006. The theme for the album was fast songs for a thirsty audience. They opted for a lean production, trying to capture the sound of a loud, angry acoustic band bent on killing. The album art was designed by Tabitha Lahr. Their third album “Child of Calamity” was released in 2008. It’s a disjointed narrative of a fictitious killer named Willie and his many victims. The album art was designed by Tabitha Lahr. Their fourth album “Tales From the Emancipated Head” was released in 2011. It’s a collection of 13 stories as told by a decapitated head as it rolls down a hill. The album art was designed by Tabitha Lahr. A fifth album “The Feast of Three Arms” was released in October 2016. It’s a story about a woman who had three arms and goes out into the world.

 

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Below is a suggestion for a CD compilation. 

 

No

Song 

Album

1

Skin And Bones Lady

Arkansas Killing Time

2

56, AR

Arkansas Killing Time

3

Arkansas Killing Time

Arkansas Killing Time

Just A Crush

Arkansas Killing Time

I Had To Cut Her

Arkansas Killing Time

6

The Beauty In Her Face

Arkansas Killing Time

Stab!

Stab!

8

The Crow 

Stab!

9

The Tardy Hearse 

Stab!

10

Will You Remember Me?

Stab!

11

More Pride Than Priors 

Stab!

12

Mr Skeleton

Stab!

13

The Child Of Calamity

Child of Calamity

14

Hair Of Gold

Child of Calamity

15

The Maiden's Eye

Child of Calamity 

16

Dark Of The Holler

Child of Calamity 

17

The Gravedigger

Child of Calamity 
18

Introduction

Tales From The Emancipated Head 
19

The Theme From The Emancipated Head

Tales From The Emancipated Head  
20

Pretty Little Girl

Tales From The Emancipated Head  
21

Confusion Hill?

Tales From The Emancipated Head  
22

The Funeral

Tales From The Emancipated Head  


 

Best album: Arkansas Killing Time 

Best songs: Skin And Bones Lady, 56, AR, Just A Crush, The Beauty In Her Face, The Tardy Hearse, Will You Remember Me?, More Pride Than Priors, Mr Skeleton, Dark Of The Holler, The Gravedigger, Pretty Little Girl, Confusion Hill?

 

 

 

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