5 June 2012
listen: poor moon
Music expert Andrew Reinholds reviews the sizzling Americana of Hiss Golden Messenger’s new album, Poor Moon.
Originally released as a vinyl edition of just 500 hand numbered copies, we have New York label Tompkins Square to thank for giving Poor Moon the chance to be heard by many more than those lucky few who were fortunate enough to quickly snap up this collection of sizzling Americana on release.
Hiss Golden Messenger is the creative force of North Carolina songwriter M.C. Taylor and New York multi-instrumentalist Scott Hirsch who come together again on this, their fourth album together as HGM after almost twenty years playing together in various guises.
David Bowie recently described the album as “mystical country like an eerie yellowing photograph” however for me it is as fresh and warm as the summer rain that announces the beginning of the album’s most compelling track ‘Jesus Shot Me in the Head’. Eventually that downpour clears through a haze of blinding bright instrumentation and Taylor’s deliciously warm vocals “the time will come when the chosen one he calls on us in thanks/he loves us all but the ones who fall hold a special place in his ranks/least I hope this is how it goes/cause I’m just ’bout out of bread/So hey everyone did you hear the news/Jesus shot me in the head.”
It’s a song which simply sneaks up on you before delivering its hammer blow right between your eyes – a tale of lost faith and the struggle to fall into the arms of wild temptation that superbly mixes accessibility with dark complexity and is the pivotal track around which the entire album navigates.
Elsewhere the similar battle with internal demons can be found on ‘Super Blue’ the twisted tale a junkie who’s determination to stay sober ends up driving him to the brink until there can be only one savior which is to get off the wagon as soon as he can.
Other highlights include the unpredictable and playful ‘Blue Country Mystic’ and the sweet instrumental ‘Dreamwood’.
The sound of the south is seeps through every pore of the album, with swampy sound effects mixed in with gospel, folk, bluegrass and classic country to walk the listener through an aural journey of HGM’s spiritual homeland.
As Taylor himself said when asked about the new album: “HGM has offered me unfettered access to my own emotions because I don’t have to worry about whether things are happening musically. And that, in turn, has taught me that things can happen musically in many ways; it’s less about technique and more about soulful playing, less about pedigree of instrument and more about how you use it. Discussion of technique puts me to sleep; it’s either magical or not”.
Poor Moon is magical, soulful and deeply religious record that never once steps over the mark to be become a self-righteous sermon. Not that I needed it, but it has reaffirmed my faith in Hiss Golden Messenger.