From the opening notes of Bad Debt, one can tell that Hiss Golden Messenger’s M.C. Taylor is a man who has the uncanny ability to put his heart into a song. While Taylor has received wide acclaim for his most recent albums Haw and Poor Moon, Bad Debt takes listeners all the way back to 2010. Four years ago, Taylor holed up in his kitchen deep in Pittsboro, N.C., recording songs of faith, heartache, desperation and unequivocal optimism to a portable cassette recorder.
The story of how Bad Debt was destroyed has eclipsed the story of how it was created. M.C. Taylor wrote these songs in the months following the birth of his son in 2009, then he recorded them in the dead of the North Carolina winter on a cassette recorder at his kitchen table, playing softly so as not to wake the household. Taylor was all set to release those recordings as Bad Debt, his first wide release as Hiss Golden Messenger, but the CD stock was destroyed during the London riots of 2010, when his distributor’s warehouse was burned.
From its inception in a Walden Pond-esque corner of the rural South in the wake of the U.S. financial crisis, to the sudden destruction of the initial CD pressing of the album during the London riots in 2011, it was almost as if Hiss Golden Messenger's Bad Debt was inherently drawn to catastrophe, resulting in an inextricable link with the bleak sociological forces that both inspired and erased it. But to consider Bad Debt exclusively through a historical lens would be to miss a lot of the point.
Given his training as a folkorist, Hiss Golden Messenger’s M.C. Taylor might appreciate the lengthy route Bad Debt took in getting its proper release (but probably not). Taylor recorded the album’s songs on cassette in his kitchen in 2009 and 2010 not long after becoming a father. The original version of the record was assembled, but most of the copies were destroyed in the London warehouse fire a year later.
Listening to this homemade album recorded live to a portable cassette, it seems like you’re spying on someone pouring their heart out. Perhaps unaware anyone is going to hear these songs of pain, religious questioning and uncertainty about their place in life. Originally released in 2010, the initial run of CDs were burned in a warehouse fire. These reissued tracks (three more adorn this edition) capture the austere, Nebraska-like acoustic musings of M.C.
The recording project of former hardcore kid M.C. Taylor (see Ex-Ignota) blossomed on this intoxicating self-released set, a voice and an acoustic guitar recorded on a cassette player at his kitchen table in North Carolina in 2010. Many songs got more fully fleshed out on the excellent Poor Moon. Here, his world-weary meditations – on God, demons and, yeah, debt – sound ancient, pulled out of the dirt, yet as immediate as a foreclosure.
Bad Debt is elementally simple, just the thrum of chords, the fire-lit spark and shadow of M.C. Taylor’s voice, yet it packs a gut punch. He recorded it, the story goes, at a kitchen table while his infant son slept, working through the gathering uneasiness of a worldwide financial crisis in these unadorned melodies. The disc is quiet, intense, unsettled, grounded in old-time-y forms but stripped of their certainty.
Hiss Golden Messenger – Bad Debt (Paradise of Bachelors)The origin story of Hiss Golden Messenger’s Bad Debt has a fateful feel. Singer/songwriter M.C. Taylor had cut his chops in Santa Barbara’s punk scene with IG-88/Ex-Ignota in the mid-‘90s (about which more here, courtesy of that Jack Johnson) before growing older gracefully in country-tinged group The Court & Spark.
In early 2010, M.C. Taylor – the mainstay of the loose Hiss Golden Messenger collective – trekked back home to Piedmont, North Carolina. Fresh from a frustrating encounter with the music business, riddled with doubts and troubled by the mess the world was engulfed in, he sat down at the kitchen table of a draft-ridden wooden house during the bitterly cold winter to cut these 12 freshly-penned tracks.