Hiss Golden Messenger – Haw [album review]

by Woody on May 28, 2013

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After belatedly finding out about Hiss Golden Messenger and M.C. Taylor just prior to SXSW, I made it a point of catching one of his sets in Austin. I didn’t know if it would be a solo set or full band as I made my way to St. David’s up on 9th. Turns out it was just Taylor and I spent the better part of 45 minutes hunched over in my chair, head rested on my hands being mesmerized by his performance.

For the recording of Haw, it is Taylor with longtime friend and bandmate Scott Hirsch handling bass, production and other duties. Terry Lonergan handled the drums and there was also some work done by members of Lambchop, Megafaun, Black Twig Pickers and William Tyler.

Rooted in Southern Folk, Taylor and crew add many elements to create a splendid Southern folk stew – mixing in gospel, R&B and country soul to your standard twang. Working with a collection of musicians that talented, there was a never a question as to whether the arrangements would be of the highest quality. In fact, there is an instrumental called Hat Of Rain that is 2:17 of pure bliss.

But like a Joe Pug record, it is the lyrics that takes his music to a new level. Much of the album has Taylor trying to work out his spirituality. Much like myself, Taylor is trying to find a connection to God but not in a way that gives people the right to tell you what is right and wrong. During that show in Austin, he took NC Governor Pat McCrory to task for the state ban on gay marriage. And that is on full display during the opening track Red Rose Nantahala where he sings, Let me the one I want / let me love the one I want.”

On tunes such as The Serpent is Kind (Compared to Man) and I’ve Got A Name for the Newborn Child, Taylor struggles to find the sunshine in dark times. The ending of The Serpent is Kind finds Taylor singing, “Let the rain come on /

If you are a fan of Lambchop, Megafaun, Joe Pug or Van Morrison (who I am constantly reminded of during both this and his prior effort Poor Moon) drop what you are doing and go buy this and Poor Moon. This is simply one of the best albums of the year and one that demands more attention.

Follow me at Twitter @WoodyHearYa

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Brad May 30, 2013 at 2:02 am

“Taylor is trying to find a connection to God but not in a way that gives people the right to tell you what is right and wrong.” Then he says opposing gay marriage is … wrong. I love when people form illogical moral pretzels.

Woody May 30, 2013 at 6:54 am

@Brad, keep reading. I do it all the time.

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