MC Taylor and Scott Hirsch— collaborators since their the Court and Spark days—have developed and enhanced their musical relationship with a series of excellent records as Hiss Golden Messenger. Taylor is based in North Carolina and Hirsch in New York, and as a result the sound is that distinct some-where-land Americana: a hybrid of country-soul and modern folk with whispers of something older, more enduring and traditionally Southern. Lyrically it conjures the past while wrestling with the present.
The various meanings of the title loom large. Haw is a tributary of the Cape Fear that flows through Piedmont North Carolina; it’s the name of a Native American tribe that battled with British settlers; a half laugh; a command used by a muleskinner to move his mule to the left. The fun part is picking the various references out as the album races along.
It’s a beautifully crafted record that shows off the talents of its line-up. Joining the core duo and their drummer Terry Lonergan are, among others, multi-instrumentalist Phil Cook of Megafaun, Black Twig Pickers banjoist Nathan Bowles, guitarist William Tyler, saxophonist Bobby Crow and Sonia Turner on backing vocals. Every note and lyric feels organic and trusted, each song spilling gently into the next like the aforementioned river making its way to the sea.
The initial driving, strained heartache of Red Rose Nantahala and Sufferer (Love My Conqueror) draws the listener into the Haw world, a place where beauty and suffering co-exist in uneasy rhythm. The mood becomes more thoughtful on hypnotic instrumental Hat of Rain while songs such as The Serpent is Kind (Compared to Man) and Sweet as John Hurt have a barroom intimacy that allows the cast of instrumentalists to shine. These are songs about work, family, friends, love and faith and they share this openly, honestly and with a determined heart.
Review by: Rachel Devine
Haw is released on Paradise of Bachelors 21 April 2013