|Hiss Golden Messenger||Heart Like a Levee [Deluxe Edition]|
Hiss Golden Messenger — Heart Like a Levee [Deluxe Edition] ≡ North Carolina’s two~man Hiss Golden Messenger play wide~angle folk~pop and neo~psychedelic country.
≡ On his sixth album as Hiss Golden Messenger, M.C. Taylor’s lifelong theme remains intact: What happens when you feel a distance from the thing that’s meant to sustain you?Location: Durham, North Carolina, U.S.
Album release: October 7th, 2016
Record Label: Merge
Duration: 42:54 + 27:15=> 70:09
01 Biloxi 2:51
02 Tell Her I’m Just Dancing 3:01
03 Heart Like a Levee 3:52
04 Like a Mirror Loves a Hammer 4:23
05 Smoky’s Song 1:20
06 Cracked Windshield 5:07
07 As the Crow Flies 3:14
08 Happy Day (Sister My Sister) 5:28
09 Say It Like You Mean It 2:52
10 Ace of Cups 4:48
11 Highland Grace 5:58
01 Blackeyed Boy 5:04
02 After the Colors 3:02
03 Together’s Just a Word 3:23
04 Living Above the Waterline 2:47
05 Strawberry Girl Reel 2:27
06 Little Rain 3:52
07 John the Gun 2:51
08 Vestapol (Is Where I’m Bound) 3:39
• Jon Ashley Engineer
• Chris Boerner Engineer, Guitar (Baritone), Guitar (Electric), Mixing, Vocals
• BJ Burton Engineer
• Bradley Cook Bass, Guitar (Acoustic), Mixing, Producer, Synthesizer, Vocals
• Phil Cook Banjo, Dobro, Guitar (Acoustic), Guitar (Electric), Organ, Piano, Slide Guitar, Synthesizer, Vocals, Wurlitzer
• Vanessa DeJongh Artwork, Design
• Matt Douglas Sax (Baritone), Saxophone
• Maggie Fost Artwork, Design
• Josh Kaufman Guitar (Electric)
• Brent Lambert Mastering
• Michael Lewis Sax (Tenor), Saxophone, Vocals
• Matt McCaughan Congas, Drums, Percussion, Vocals
• Matthew McCaughan Photography
• Tift Merritt Vocals
• Rob Moose Strings
• Alexandra Sauser~Monnig Vocals
• M.C. Taylor Composer, Guitar (Ac.+El.), Mandolin, Mixing, Producer, Vocals
• Sonyia Turner Vocals
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek; Score: ****
≡ On 2014’s Lateness of Dancers, M.C. Taylor’s Hiss Golden Messenger embraced a more blues~and gospel~oriented sound without leaving behind their trademark folk~inspired Americana. Heart Like a Levee is another step forward; its roots come from the soul, funky R&B, and gospel~ized blues the South delivered so abundantly during the1960s and ‘70s via Muscle Shoals, Stax, Volt, Hi, Goldwax, and Josie.
≡ These songs reflect a period in 2015 when Taylor struggled with the decision to forsake the security a day job offered his family and pursue music full~time. His cast includes old friends Phil and Bradley Cook of Megafaun, Bon Iver drummer/percussionist Matt McCaughan, and Mountain Man vocalist Alexandra Sauser~Monnig. Newcomers include vocalists Tift Merritt and Sonyia Turner, and saxophonist Michael Lewis. “Biloxi” opens with congas and a drum kit, strummed acoustic guitars, Taylor’s mandolin, and a high~lonesome Dobro that weds country and soul à la Delaney & Bonnie. The title track is a tender, taut reflection of self~doubt, vulnerability, and commitment. Mandolin, banjo, Wurlitzer, and backing singers buoy Taylor’s delivery: “...Is it too heavy honey/Did I carry my piece of the fire? …If you let me honey/I’ll set the world on fire for you….” The swampy, funky gospel blues in “Like a Mirror Loves a Hammer,” with its nasty clavinet, multi~tracked saxophones, and plodding bassline wed the eeriness of the early Staple Singers, the soaring choruses of Joe South, and the funky jamming of the Meters. “Cracked Windshield” harkens back to the Lateness of Dancers era, but “As the Crow Flies” offers the kind of Wurlitzer line Spooner Oldham minted: it gets grafted onto a raucous, Memphis~style rockabilly piano ~ à la Jim Dickinson’s Dixie Fried ~ and multi~tracked lead and backing vocals recall a David Porter production. The steamy slide guitar break is icing on the cake. “Happy Day (Sister My Sister)” is glorious, uplifting country~soul gospel. Turner’s and Sauser~Monnig’s backing vocals add heavenly ethereality to Taylor’s earthbound singing. “Ace of Cups Hung Low Band” dances the tightrope between swampy blues and choogling roots rock with strings and punchy saxophones adding heft and texture. Closer “Highland Grace” is an uncluttered attempt at soul as Taylor’s interplay with his backing singers is intuitive, sweet, and stirring, carried by acoustic piano (think Dan Penn), saxophones, shuffling backbeat, in~the~pocket bass, and strummed guitars.
≡ Despite its many references, Heart Like a Levee is just not a throwback record. Taylor combines, inhabits, and adapts his inspirations in the present through the strength of his writing. His melodies are basic; his words are anything but. They bridge the temporal to the eternal, the carnal to the divine, the homespun to the historic; they resonate directly through the grain of his unaffected yet emotionally expressive singing voice. Due to its bright, open production and quirky presentation, Heart Like a Levee is a watermark for Hiss Golden Messenger. Seldom have hard times sounded this uplifting.
by Laura Snapes, OCTOBER 11 2016 / SCORE: 8.2
≡ The writing of the songs that became Heart Like a Levee started in a hotel room in Washington, DC , in January of 2015 during a powerful storm that darkened the East Coast. At that time I was feeling — more acutely than I had ever felt before — wrenched apart by my responsibilities to my family and to my music. Forgetting, momentarily, that for me, each exists only with the other. How could I forget? Though maybe my lapse was reasonable: I had just quit my job, the most recent and last, in a series of dead–end gigs stretching back 20 years, with the vow that my children would understand their father as a man in love with his world and the inventor of his own days. They would be rare in that regard. And then — driven by monthly bills and pure fear — I left for another tour, carrying a load of guilt that I could just barely lift. But in that snowy hotel room I found the refrain that became my compass: I was a dreamer, babe, when I set out on the road; but did I say I could find my way home?
≡ Through the spring and summer, while traveling and when I was off the road and at home in Durham, I wrote about love — the teaching kind and the destroying kind — and about movement, and being moved, really and truly moved. I wrote about our responsibilities to our brothers and sisters — of blood and the road — and how easy it can be to abdicate those responsibilities at the slightest threat of bad weather. I reckoned with things that I couldn’t see, but I could feel; and in so feeling begin to understand as real to me and those whom I love. I carried my piece of the fire, or tried to. The heart is a beautiful vessel, prone to failure and breathtaking acts of grace. An impermanent, permeable thing, lovely for its changeability, blameless for its fallibility. It’s hard to even begin to conceive of how to measure our boundaries. Heart Like
a Levee is my taking stock of my universe, my span, my inventory, my leave-taking and return over back roads so blue they look black until the dawn.
≡ Heart Like a Levee was recorded in the fall and winter of 2015. It was produced by myself and Brad Cook, who also played bass. Phil Cook played the piano and organ and guitar, and Matt McCaughan played the drums and percussion. Our friends Alexandra SauserMonnig, Tift Merritt, Michael Lewis, Matt Douglas, Chris Boerner, Josh Kaufman, Ryan Gustafson, Sonyia Turner and Jon Ashley all contributed in important ways that you can read about in the album credits.
≡ I have dedicated every day to song. I have been trav- eling all my life. And I understand that I am so lucky, and I am thankful. Money is easy enough to find if you want it bad enough; but art, true deep art full of grace that shakes and terrifies the soul, is an elusive spirit and damn near impossible to come by. So sitting in this sunny backyard at the end of this journey that I took with my friends and family, everyone that I love and some of whom did not even realize they were on this trip, I’m thinking: We found it. Goddammit, everybody: We found it. And that’s a rare feeling indeed.
≡ And it’s all just a moment. — M.C. Taylor Durham, North Carolina 15 June 2016
|Hiss Golden Messenger||Heart Like a Levee [Deluxe Edition]|