Micah P Hinson: Presents The Holy Strangers
Full Time Hobby – 8 September 2017
Sounding like a combination of Johnny Cash, Tom Waits, Leon Redbone and Guy Clark, sandpaper gruff baritone Texan Micah P Hinson describes his latest album as a “modern folk opera”. It tells the story of a wartime family from birth to love, to marriage and children, war and betrayal, and, ultimately, murder and suicide.
It opens with an overture as such, the spare The Temptation a four minute wind-blown instrumental hung on resonator guitar, setting proceedings up for the following near six-minute scene-setting The Great Void delivered in cracked tone against a simple lonesome guitar and tinkling keyboard notes.
Lover’s Lane is a jaunty Johnny Cash-like chug before the album returns to instrumental mode with the brooding, slowly gathering The Years Tire On, featuring a choir and swelling to an orchestral climax and abrupt cello note end.
A prairie cowboy campfire number, Oh Spaceman (recently premiered on Folk Radio UK) is an achingly weary number, the titular brief piano and strings instrumental sounding like the theme from some old movie. It paves the way for the compelling strings and sparse percussive framed spoken narrative Micah Book One with its Biblical like imagery and tone that nods to his Cormac McCarthy literary influences as well as his own upbringing.
The War opens the second half with another overcast instrumental that picks up on the former’s backing, returning to vocals with the croakily sung slow waltzing The Darling, a female backing chorus complementing the plucked strings accompaniment.
Featuring a sampled sermon, The Awakening is another instrumental; the organ fleshed with pulsing percussion, choral harmonies and strings and an unexpected jolt of discordant notes in the final seconds. As the title suggests, The Last Song is veined with finality as he intones, in a rather grammatically incorrect way, “These are the last words I’ll say to you and these are the final song I’ll sing for you.” If that’s doomy, wait until you get to Memorial Day Massacre, an instrumental built around a repeated phrase and metronomic beat.
The penultimate track, The Lady From Abilene offers up a strummed, strings swirling cowboy-waltzing-ballad of murder, a mother’s grief, mental breakdown, apocalyptic visions and suicide with a lyrical touch of Leonard Cohen. After such tragedy and despair, the album closes with Come By Here, beginning with the minimalist piano note and pained singing of Kumbaya. The lines recount the story’s preceding events and call on an absent God before it drifts away into a forlorn dry and dust coated instrumental play out on what sounds like an Appalachian dulcimer. Best absorbed in a single unbroken sitting, it may not be the most commercial thing he’s ever released, but it’s certainly his most ambitious and compelling.
Performing Oh Spaceman live: