Burnell Pines, a.k.a. Jeremy Bernstein, released his sophomore album, Till the Day I Die, last month. Having grown up in New York’s Catskill region, Bernstein conceived Till the Day… as a tribute to the area. For those familiar with the region’s music scene, it should come as no surprise that Burnell Pines’ album was released through Woodstock-based artist Marco Benevento’s Royal Potato Family label. The keyboardist performs on the record as well.
Bernstein’s use of his pseudonym can’t help but bring to mind another musician who widely uses a pen name: Josh Tillman, better known as Father John Misty. Despite the superficial similarities between the two—the use of a pseudonym, the music’s folky overtones, etc.—Berstein and Tillman use those characters to divergent ends. The Father John Misty moniker is reflexive, simultaneously embracing and archly reflecting on the melodrama and emotion behind the songs. Burnell Pines, on the other hand, is uninterested in postmodern winks and smirks. Through the character of Burnell Pines, Berstein is able to channel something essential and impressionistic about the culture of the Hudson Valley and his experience of it.
Till the Day I Die isn’t pulling any punches. The album opens with a song titled plainly “The Catskills Stole My Heart,” and another, “Blue Skies Shelter Me,” is an “ode to the sheltering Hudson Valley skies.” That love for this region of New York comes through in the music as well. The Band, and their collaborations with Bob Dylan, are a clear influence on the record. Drummer and co-producer Justin Guip was even Levon Helm’s producer.
Working under the pen name Burnell Pines, Jeremy Berstein has created an authentic tribute to his home in upstate New York and the music that region sparked.