|Hiss Golden Messenger — Bad Debt [Deluxe Edition] (2014)|
Hiss Golden Messenger — Bad Debt [Deluxe Edition]
≈ North Carolina's two-man Hiss Golden Messenger play wide-angle folk-pop and neo-psychedelic country.
Formed: 2008 in North Carolina, Unites States
Location: Pittsboro, N.C.
Album release: November 22, 2010/2014
Recording date: 2009 — 2010
Record Label: Black Maps
01 Balthazar's Song 3:23
02 No Lord Is Free 5:04
03 Bad Debt 3:01
04 O Little Light 4:13
05 Straw Man Red Sun River Gold 3:59
06 Far Bright Star 2:00
07 The Serpent Is Kind (Compared to Man) 3:36
08 Call Him Daylight 3:27
09 Jesus Shot Me in the Head 5:16
10 Super Blue (Two Days Clean) 3:07
11 Roll River Roll 3:18
12 Drum 2:28
All tracks written by M.C. Taylor
Slim Diamond Engineer
Brendan Greaves Design, Layout
Scott Hirsch Primary Artist
Anthony Puglisi Mastering
M.C. Taylor Composer
Themes: Easter Healing/Comfort Late Night Parenthood Reflection World View
BY GRANT GOLDEN; Published at 1:35 PM on January 14, 2014
≈ From the opening notes of Bad Debt, one can tell that Hiss Golden Messenger’s M.C. Taylor is a man who has the uncanny ability to put his heart into a song. While Taylor has received wide acclaim for his most recent albums Haw and Poor Moon, Bad Debt takes listeners all the way back to 2010. Four years ago, Taylor holed up in his kitchen deep in Pittsboro, N.C., recording songs of faith, heartache, desperation and unequivocal optimism to a portable cassette recorder. The album received a limited CD release but was swiftly cut short after the London riots laid waste to the warehouse the record was stored in. Now, three years after the album’s untimely demise, Paradise of Bachelors, Hiss Golden Messenger’s current label, has re-issued Bad Debt with three new tracks. While half of Bad Debt’s tracks can be found on the aforementioned albums in a much more ornate setting, Bad Debt chronicles the rudimentary beginnings of this decorated songwriter.
≈ Recorded amidst the global financial crisis with Taylor’s one-year old son sleeping in the next room, Bad Debt is steeped in a complicated array of emotions. Existential pondering and desperate shouts to the lord give the album a heavy weight, but each track feels as if the narrator remains cautiously in the light — aware of our fleeting mortality yet hopeful for tomorrow. On “The Serpent Is Kind (Compared To Man)” Taylor begs for the rain to “come on” for “behind comes the sun.” This music feels like a heart-to-heart conversation with a dear friend, especially when it’s as instrumentally sparse as Bad Debt is. Bad Debt is filled with earnest musings of a man baring his soul to anyone willing to listen, and those who do will surely get an earful.
≈ Whether Taylor is speaking of the fear that comes with being a new father or the bleary-eyed woes of a man raveled in his own frustrations of faith, it all comes pouring out with a refreshing sense of honesty. Whether you’re bouncing along with the brisk and cheerful rhythm behind “Drum” or stopped in your tracks by the sobering “Jesus Shot Me In The Head,” Hiss Golden Messenger will dig deep into the core of you and rattle your bones. But it’s not all about fire and brimstone or religious ramblings; this music is just fundamentally phenomenal. Few songwriters can make songs as dynamic as those on Bad Debt with just an acoustic guitar, but Taylor seems to do so with ease. ≈ Whether you’re honing in on the brilliant lyricism or simply soaking in the aural wonders of this minimalistic folk album, there’s plenty to fall in love with about Bad Debt.
Artist Biography by Jon O'Brien
≈ A vehicle for singer/songwriter Michael Taylor (M.C. Taylor) and multi-instrumentalist and recording engineer Scott Hirsch, Hiss Golden Messenger's fusion of classic rock, folk-pop, and sparse blues in various guises has seen Taylor compared to the likes of lo-fi legends Bonnie "Prince" Billy and Bill Callahan. Born and raised in Southern California, Taylor was inspired to pick up the guitar by his musician father, who had previously played in the Settlers, a pop outfit that once opened for John Denver. His first musical outing was with Scott Hirsch in the hardcore punk band Ex-Ignota. But the influences of the Beatles, the Byrds, and Buffalo Springfield proved too strong to ignore. He began writing his own songs, and in his late teens he moved to San Francisco, where he fronted the country-rock outfit the Court and Spark, who released four critically acclaimed albums before disbanding in 2007.
≈ After relocating to North Carolina, Taylor and Hirsch began to record material under the alias of Hiss Golden Messenger, but Taylor performed entirely solo with just an acoustic guitar for accompaniment when it came to playing live. Following the release of albums Country Hai East Cotton and the vinyl-only Root Work through their Heaven and Earth Magic Recording Company, they signed a deal with U.K. label Black Maps, which distributed Hiss Golden Messenger's international debut, the nine-track acoustic mini-album Bad Debt, in 2010.
≈ In 2011, the boutique label Paradise of Bachelors did a very limited LP run of Poor Moon, which sold out almost instantly. The pair also released Lord I Love the Rain on their own label. Tompkins Square re-released Poor Moon in 2012 as well as the single "Jesus Shot Me in the Head" b/w "Jesus Dub." A live, digital-only recording entitled Plowed: Live in Bovina was self-released that same year. Haw, a new studio recording by Hiss Golden Messenger, was issued by Light in the Attic in 2013. Taylor has also been a college lecturer specializing in folklore, is responsible for the blog The Old Straight Track, and has helped edit a music education curriculum for Quincy Jones. A reissue of Bad Debt, HGM's lost first recording (a very limited edition to begin with, its remaining copies were destroyed in the PIAS warehouse fire), saw reissue by Paradise of Bachelors with bonus and unreleased material.
Review by Thom Jurek; Score: ****
≈ To date, it's a safe bet that more people have heard the narrative surrounding Hiss Golden Messenger's Bad Debt, than have actually heard it: In 2010, HGM's M.C. Taylor had returned to North Carolina from San Francisco, disillusioned with the music business and discontent with his life. He recorded these songs — just his voice and an acoustic guitar — onto a standard cassette recorder at his kitchen table as his year-old son slept in an adjoining room. It was pressed onto CD and LP in very limited editions when the PIAS warehouse fire destroyed all remaining copies. Six of the album's songs were re-recorded on the subsequent HGM albums Poor Moon and HAW. Bad Debt is an unflinching examination of faith, the self, doubt, rescue, redemption, parenthood, and coming to terms with the intertwining worlds of flesh and spirit. Throughout, one can hear Taylor's feet on the floor, him shuffling in his chair, hitting an unintended note on the guitar, a hint of reverb on his vocal, and a constant yet subtle tape hiss; these all serve to underscore the intimacy and power in these songs as they wrestle with light and darkness. The original stripped-down versions of "The Serpent Is Kind (Compared to Man)," "Jesus Shot Me in the Head," "Super Blue (Two Days Clean)," "Balthazar's Song," and O Little Light," are as beautiful as their later incarnations, but more searing and immediate here. "Straw Men Red Sun River Gold" is a country song that offers a profound autobiography: it poetically details innocence, its loss, dissolution, and the road to restoration. The country-blues of "Call Him Daylight" is a haunting folk-blues that offers both prophecy and personal revelation in very human terms. Despite the weighty topics, Taylor displays an unwavering sense of calm and centeredness in his delivery, adding an egoless, steadfast sense of conviction. His embrace of the Christian faith is never self-righteous, which makes his songs easy, compelling statements of personal spirituality. Bad Debt is a quiet, stirring, utterly arresting collection by one of our best songwriter/poets.
|Hiss Golden Messenger — Bad Debt [Deluxe Edition] (2014)|