Release Date: Sep 22, 2017
Record label: Merge
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
For years now, Hiss Golden Messenger’s principal creative force, M.C. Taylor, has written songs that aren’t just earthy, they’re intrinsically of the earth. His music sounds harvested, not produced by man and man-made things. It feels deeply rooted, like that big old proud tree that towers over beautiful backyards in the South. You could argue that Taylor’s been on a roll from the very beginning, and that’s probably true.
If you could somehow stuck a pin to this album’s aesthetic, out would pour Tupelo Honey-era Van Morrison, vintage Rolling Stones or Faces and a thick stream of American roots music: folk, soul and country, and especially the hybrid of the latter two that briefly flourished in the 70’s courtesy of, say, Larry Jon Wilson, Mickey Newbury and Jim Ford. You could say there’s not an original musical idea anywhere to be seen on Hallelujah Anyhow and be 100% accurate. But you’d be totally missing the point and with it the album’s immense, irresistible charm.
Releasing a new record within a year of your last – very well received – album could be a recipe for disaster for many an artist. Not for MC Taylor though, whose Hallelujah Anyhow is a beautiful follow up, albeit one with a little less in the way of musical variety. Where Heart Like A Levee had the sultry (Like A Mirror Loves A Hammer) and the bright and sparky (Biloxi) peppered among its more introspective songs, Hallelujah Anyhow is a more consistently reserved affair.
The second album in 12 months by MC Taylor’s Hiss Golden Messenger is shot through with both darkness and light. From the heady opener Jenny of the Roses (“I’ve never been afraid of the darkness”) to the closing When the Wall Comes Down, there are several allusions to the dark, while Taylor’s mystical brand of country-soul has a rapturous quality rarely found in rock. It’s there in Jaw, one of the gentler tracks, all fidgety rhythms and Taylor’s husky voice, and in the aching Gulfport You’ve Been on My Mind.
M.C. Taylor has been making music for more than 20 years, first as a member of the hardcore act Ex-Ignota and later as frontman for the California country-rock group the Court & Spark. He formed his latest incarnation, Hiss Golden Messenger, when he moved to North Carolina in the late 2000s, but only in the last five years has that band become a full-time gig for the folklorist and family man.
MC Taylor’s low-key but soulful Americana outfit hits a particularly breezy stride in this seventh full length. Song titles like “Lost in the Darkness” and “Harder Rain,” hint at darker material, but the tone is resolutely positive, uplifted by sharp uptempo guitar work and rousing choruses. The 3 a.m. disconsolate-ness of early albums like Haw and the nearly-lost Bad Debt (which after all included a song called “Jesus Shot Me in the Head”) has dissipated and Taylor sounds unworried, if not downright happy. Taylor works with mostly the same crew as before, the two Cook brothers from Megafaun and drummer Darren Jessee, forming the main band.
Hiss Golden Messenger are basically M.C. Taylor and assorted friends. This native Californian has become a leading Americana voice in the last decade, alchemising his love for The Byrds, The Beatles, Dylan, Van Morrison and Neil Young. The style he.