Release Date: Feb 26, 2013
Record label: Merge
Genre(s): Alt-Country, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter, American Underground
Miracle Temple is a textbook example of a great sophomore effort: Mount Moriah dishes out a bigger and more powerful helping of alt-country rock that may be bit of a surprise based on their previous release. But as they shift toward more traditional, soulful sounds and bigger arrangements, they pull it off wonderfully and build firmly upon what they’ve already done. The first thing you should notice when you press play on Miracle Temple is how effortlessly Heather McEntire sings these achingly beautiful melodies accented by gospel-tinged background vocals performed by a handful of guests.
With Nashville the current king of trash telly, country singers with blindingly glossy hair are experiencing a cultural renaissance. Bound together by Heather McEntire’s Dolly Parton lilt, Mount Moriah are a welcome addition to the alternative reaches of the genre. Rising out of various metal and post-punk bands, on their second album MM flash their heavy roots on ‘Miracle Temple Holiness’.
Genres are certainly a surface conceit, a simple name for a complicate set of inspirations and traditions. So it makes sense that, say, the idea of country music is one so fraught with questions, with contradictions, with those who argue for or against it, who decide what is and is not under its umbrella, who invent add-ons like alt- or pop- to protect it, who ignore it in lieu of delving into these murky questions. It’s not a unique trait for country music, but as its poppier incarnations rake in dollars and traditionalists cry foul (some more than others), we seem to—as in other genres—be constantly in search of the genuine article, what “real” country music is.
Mount Moriah's self-titled debut album offered a lovely, intimate, tender brand of electric Americana that reflected influences as diverse as Neil Young, Dolly Parton, and Carole King. While that may have surprised fans of Jenks Miller and Heather McEntire, whose catalogs are made up of decidedly more explosive offerings, it shouldn't have. Both are talents too large to be constrained by genre.
Mount MoriahMiracle Temple(Merge)Rating: 4 stars (out of 5) Mount Moriah guitarist Jenks Miller spends half his time in metallic Americana act Horseback, blending earthy atmosphere with unholy intensity. So listeners familiar with that band’s epic heft might be slightly taken aback by the polished, melodic and downright pretty alt-country that Miller helps to craft on Miracle Temple, Mount Moriah’s second album and first for Merge Records. With all due respect to Miller, however, it’s the pitch-perfect pipes of vocalist Heather McEntire that steal the show here.
Mount Moriah is a real college town band-- though not in the pejorative sense. The band formed from a record counter friendship between singer Heather McEntire and guitarist Jenks Miller at the since-shuttered Schoolkids Records, on the University of North Carolina campus. On the band's rootsy, countrified second album (and Merge debut) Miracle Temple, McEntire sings of a life in a town ruled by student seasons, where you stay after everyone goes, leaving summer wide open.
Mount MoriahMiracle Temple[Merge; 2013]By Ray Finlayson; February 27, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetAt first sight Mount Moriah frontwoman Heather McEntire could easily be accused of being stuck in the same place too long. Her songs come off like wistful observations of a small town going about its normal business. “Normal” is far from objective, though, and her songs reveal the seedy underlayer of a small town, fuelled by alcohol and adultery.
Now that Mount Moriah have found themselves on their home state's premier indie label, there's a very good chance they'll turn quite a few more heads. Led by Heather McEntire and Jenks Miller, their second album continues along the same path as their self-released debut, but with a bit more polish. Miracle Temple is as straightforward as they come, and is all the better for it, settling down into its groove right from opening track "Younger Days" and not wandering very far.
The American South is changing, whether it wants to or not. Old ideas and mediums are being gradually pushed aside for more sensible ones, both in politics and culture. Mount Moriah frontwoman Heather McEntire is fascinated by these changes and how they’re affecting her home. As a poet and writer, McEntire turns her observations into prose and then adds a melody and chords (the North Carolina trio’s debut LP consisted of McEntire’s old, unused poems set to country rock).
Heather McEntire’s voice is the first thing you’ll notice about Mount Moriah. With her patient drawl, her deep intonation and her delicate quiver, she’s earned comparisons to a whole slew of country luminaries: Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams, Dolly Parton. It’s a voice that immediately evokes a sense of history and provides a feeling of comfort, drawing you in from the harsh winter winds toward the warmth of the stove.