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CD REVIEW

Hiss Golden Messenger: Hallelujah Anyhow

by Ryan Reed on October 23, 2017


Ever since reemerging as Hiss Golden Messenger’s mouthpiece in 2007, M.C. Taylor has been one of indie-folk’s most approachable artists. In his reedy everyman tenor, the North Carolinian recounts relatable tales of spiritual pain, family contentment and existential angst. Based on the intimacy of his live shows and the frankness of his interviews, you get the sense he couldn’t bullshit you if he tried. His prolificacy (seven albums and two EPs in nine years) feels appropriate: Taylor isn’t churning out material to ride out his recent hype wave; he approaches music like hard labor, breaking a sweat to refine his craft. On 2016’s Heart Like a Levee, the Hiss mastermind flexed all his muscles at once, moving seamlessly from Stax-styled soul to back-porch Americana to swampy psych-rock. After that jack-of-all-trades display, Hallelujah Anyhow feels like a return to his rootsy roots—a soothing balm of folk-rock strumming, pedal-steel moan, and gospel harmonies. Taylor and his ramshackle studio crew cut these 10 songs quickly, with minimal overdubs, in an effort to replicate the immediacy of their live show. And that no-frills approach is the ideal vehicle for the softly crooned ballad “Jaw” and soul-rock strut of “Domino (Time Will Tell),” on which he reflects on early tours filled with “old SGs and cigarette smoke.” On the rare occasion, Taylor allows himself to indulge, piling counterpoint saxophone on “I Am the Song” and atmospheric keys into the psychedelic climax of “John the Gun.” But he never forgets his most crucial instrument. “While I’m here, I’m gonna sing just like a songbird,” he croons on “When the Wall Comes Down.” And for that, we’re thankful.
Authors: Ryan Reed
Artist: Hiss Golden Messenger
Album: Hallelujah Anyhow
Label: Merge