For me, summertime in Wisconsin means a lot of things. There are ingredients to the recipe; some that have been in place since I was little. Backpacking adventures in Northern Wisconsin, trips to my favorite lakes (Devil’s Lake and Lake Superior), grilling out, sand bank hangs on the Wisconsin River, fireworks, warm, late nights. Some that got added over time… drives with loud music on back country roads, drinks with friends on the many patio bars around the Capitol, Monona Terrace time, lazy walks about State Street, brunch on Sunday mornings with good company, The Shitty Barn… Maybe I’m just biased, but I like to think that Wisconsinites know how to do summer right. Probably because with the exception of our 3 summer months we have to deal with the snowy/rainy/sleety mess that is our typical fall/winter/spring. So when summer comes we all just let it all out in one awesome burst.

Live music, is without a doubt, the staple of the entire mix. The sound, bands and venues have changed over time, but it’s always there. If you spent any time in Madison during the summer you’ll quickly come to realize that there tends to be this crazy musical explosion that happens.

Pioneer is a band that has been added to what summer means for me in Madison. It’s their sound, but it’s also their sense of Wisconsin heritage, something they are proud of. I bet they relate to my vision of a Wisconsin summer. Pioneer is Kenny Monroe, Jacqueline Kursel, Tyler Ditter and Shawn Kenneth Pierce. When they’re not working on their own music you’ll see them running around Madison supporting their friend’s bands and other local projects. They’re people with a draw, and their music reflects that.

Pioneers’ most recent album release, Black Pasture is sure to be one that will be on repeat this season; a perfect way to finally push out this snow and to usher in the sun. For those who have seen Pioneer play in Madison before, you’ll recognize several of these tracks, but they’ve been perfected and honed into this finished product.

The two part track that starts with “Black Pasture: Summertime Pt.1” and “Summertime Pt. 2” both stand out. Although these aren’t unfamiliar tracks to Pioneer fans, you’ll feel a definite change with this version. It’s a track that has grown over time through their live performances; becoming darker and extended through Kursel’s haunting cello sounds and Ditter’s reverb. There is no doubt it’s a captivating way to begin this album.

Overall, the album move back and forth between these darker moments, and more upbeat folk sounds. “Baby” brings a faster pace to the table. Showcasing Kursel’s immense talent on the cello, she brings in a fast pace tempo that Monroe compliments with guitar and lead vocal.[youtube url=]“I’m Your Man” and “Memorial Day” in different ways, show us the beauty and chemistry of Monroe and Kursel’s harmonies. “Memorial Day” stays with the darker tone set by the first track. It builds off of a quiet sound, harmonies and a few choice guitar chords. “I’m Your Man” still features these harmonies, but follows the faster pace, telling the story of the beginning of a relationship.

Black Pasture shows us where Pioneer comes from, where they are presently, and where they’re headed.  It’s all cumulated into this whole, and it’s promising.

Rating: 6.4/10

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