MC Taylor, a songwriter and a student of folklore, is not a declamatory man. His songs are compressed and poetic, with nary a syllable out of place. You will hear echoes of familiar things – a bit of Van Morrison’s mystical warmth, or John Martyn’s angst, and the language will be unfussy, and derived from the folk tradition.Poor Moon does not sound especially like a record from 2011, but Taylor has a way of explaining the distinction between timelessness and revivalism.
Last year, the tiny North Carolina label Paradise of Bachelors issued Poor Moon-- 13 tracks of skewed, country-soul greatness from Hiss Golden Messenger-- in a vinyl edition of 500, each hand-numbered at the lower right corner of the cover. Poor Moon represents just the second release for Paradise of Bachelors and its first collection of new songs; the year before, the imprint debuted with Said I Had a Vision, a collection of mostly ignored and lost would-be soul hits by a small-town Southern producer and tunesmith named David Lee. Last week, the California-via-New York label Tompkins Square reissued Poor Moon on CD, giving an album that had quickly sold out in its original form a chance to benefit from wider distribution.
Hiss Golden Messenger is the new(ish) moniker adopted by North Carolina’s Michael Taylor, previously of San Francisco folk band the Cork & Spark. To put it bluntly, Taylor’s music sounds bad on paper, but good in headphones. I’ll describe this music and you will think it sucks, but it does not suck at all, so just wait. It’s seemingly easy soulful country-folk; with its Band-esque organ jaunts, classic rock noodle-ry, fluttery high-notes, and jaunty upstrokes, it’s ostensibly comparable to the smooth-folk dross of Ray LaMontagne and the like.
There's something unsettling in the combination of the easy sway of the music and the dense, mystical tone of M.C. Taylor's lyrics on this latest collaboration between he and multi-instrumentalist Scott Hirsch. The pair have been recording as Hiss Golden Messenger for two decades, and the natural chemistry between them is palpable on Poor Moon. The album has the warm, homey feel of mid-'70s vinyl, with subtle brushes of pedal steel, banjo, fiddle and Hammond organ adding just the right colours.