Song Premier: The Pinkerton Raid’s Cover Of “White Winter Hymnal” Captures Emotional Intensity

The Pinkerton Raid’s songwriter Jesse James DeConto hails from New England but now resides in Durham, North Carolina and pursues Americana influences. Previous collections they’ve released in recent years include Tolerance Ends, Love Begins (2017), Where The Wildest Spirits Fly (2018), and The Highway Moves The World (2022). The group has now announced their upcoming album, Winter Songs by Other People, where they take on Classic sounds, covering Vince Guaraldi from A Charlie Brown Christmas, along with ‘70s Folk-Rock revivalists Fleet Foxes.

We’re very pleased to debut the track “White Winter Hymnal”, a cover from Fleet Foxes, on Wildfire Music + News today. The track will arrive on November 3rd, 2023.

The original song is a remarkable one, so unique and haunting in its imagery and musicality that it’s a testament to the band’s enthusiasm for it that they bravely took on a new interpretation of the track, and a very successful one at that. While the original track uses a circular feeling to the vocals, almost suggestive of singing rounds, as well as choral effects, The Pinkerton Raid side-steps that more genteel approach in favor of an emphasis on the melodic possibilities the song presents. In the cover version, vocals take on a heightened sense of emotion because they are somewhat pared back, but strings and trumpet, particularly, conjure their own atmosphere and bring a sense of driving energy.

The overall effect of The Pinkerton Raid’s cover is a greater emphasis on the original composition’s main components as well as upon the unusual and striking imagery of the lyrics, which are delivered with an intensity that suggests the role of memory and sensory impressions. If you’re wondering about the single’s surprising cover art given its wintry theme, there’s also a lyric in the track, “red as strawberries in summertime.” This cover version is also one that seems more suited to an immediate live performance situation, so carries a hint of directness, as it might performed in a small space for an intimate show.

Jesse James DeConto shares:

Robin Pecknold has said that “White Winter Hymnal” is a nonsense song that Fleet Foxes wrote for the musical feel more than any lyrical meaning. But, damn, it makes me feel something. It’s also the song that one of my best friends sent to me from Seattle when Fleet Foxes first signed with Sub Pop and instantly became one of my favorite bands. It moves along at a quick tempo, so I think of a dog-sled team or the reindeer pulling the sleigh or 12-year-old me racing through the New Hampshire woods on my cross-country skis. It’s cheerful energy in the midst of a frigid winter.

“White Winter Hymnal” was originally written by Robin Pecknold in 2008. For this rendition, DeConto is joined on vocals and guitar by Cameron Collier’s trumpet, on keyboards by producer James Phillips (Bombadil), and on background vocals by Derek Skeen, Sarah Shearin, Alex Mitchell and Suzanne DeConto. Andy Reed takes on drums, and DeConto’s plays bass.

This is the band’s first foray into recording cover songs in the studio but equally reflects their wider Americana catalogue.


The band has opened for Illiterate Light, The Ballroom Thieves, TopHouse, The Collection and Noah Gundersen. At festivals, they’ve played alongside Sunny War, Amythyst Kiah, River Whyless, Watchhouse and The Bones of JR Jones.