Release Date: Apr 12, 2011
Record label: Holidays for Quince
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
In a 2006 interview with Pitchfork, the Mountain Goats' John Darnielle explained why he chose Bellafea as an opening act: "I took out good bands I liked! It's really as simple as that. I really wanted people to see Bellafea especially. I think you don't see a stage presence like Heather McEntire's more than a few times in your life. She's unbelievable." Five years later, Bellafea's fate is unknown-- it's unclear whether they're on indefinite hiatus or broken up permanently-- but McEntire's charisma comes through strong and clear in her new act, Mount Moriah, which she formed with guitarist Jenks Miller of Horseback.
On their debut album under the Mount Moriah name, following an earlier incarnation as Un Deux Trois, the duo of Heather McEntire and Jenks Miller take a turn toward classic rock and ramble -- perhaps surprising to anyone who only knows Miller through his black metal work -- in an utterly early 21st century moment with their easygoing approach to entrapping an idea of genre. (And frankly, Miller does a better job exploring this approach than My Morning Jacket does black metal, say.) Mount Moriah's primary voice, though, belongs to McEntire, who sings lead and plays while Miller and a wide-ranging group of fellow performers, from a variety of acts including Megafaun, St. Vincent, and Bowerbirds, contribute throughout.
Heather McEntire is mostly known for fronting rock outfit Bellafea—go listen to their excellent Cavalcade if you haven’t yet—but with her Mount Moriah project, we get just the bella half of her sound. With Jenks Miller, with whom she originally formed the bright pop act Un Deux Trois, she explores Southern rock, folk and gospel on Mount Moriah with impressive results. Her voice is clear and beautiful here—she can growl in that rock band—and her and Miller and a slew of other players put together some swampy and bracing cuts.
After cutting their teeth as parts of some heavy, aggressive rock outfits, longtime friends Heather McEntire and Jenks Miller teamed up to form Mount Moriah, an Americana duo whose music is steeped in the traditions of their native North Carolina. On their self-titled debut, Mount Moriah only hints at McEntire’s and Miller’s harder-edged past, playing a slight variation on the type of alt-country that acts like the Sadies and the Be-Good Tanyas have been peddling to the No Depression set for the better part of two decades. If Mount Moriah wants for originality, it’s to the duo’s credit that their technical skill and a few moments of sharper songwriting make it a promising debut.
The good news for North Carolina’s Mount Moriah is that the hard part is behind them. A recent signing with fellow Tar Heels at Merge Records means that not only will their upcoming sophomore release get legitimate national publicity, but the band’s 2011 self-titled debut also gets a re-release, pressed to vinyl for the first time and enhanced by a number of radio session recordings. For a band hardly known outside of their core audience (or anyone who saw them impress as opener for Craig Finn last winter), the benefits of this arrangement are tangible: Mount Moriah becomes a record saved from slipping through the cracks.