Hiss Golden Messenger – Hallelujah Anyhow
Merge Records – 22 September 2017
The current musical incarnation of North Carolina native MC Taylor, this is Hiss Golden Messenger‘s fifth album in four years, a swift follow-up to 2016’s Heart Like A Levee (the bonus edition of which included a second album, Vestapol) and again addresses finding hope and joy in times of darkness, a theme that chimes loudly given the current state of the nation. He pretty much sums up his worldview on the Byrds sing Dylan styled chiming album opener Jenny of the Roses, a song in memory of someone’s who’s passed on, when he sings “I’ve never been afraid of darkness, it’s just a different kind of light.”
It pretty much sets the musical and lyrical tone for the album, Lost Out In The Darkness set to a steady soul groove drum backbeat courtesy of Darren Jessee from Ben Folds Five and featuring a harmonica solo, slowing it down slightly for Jaw and Harder Rain, both of which comes with a Van Morrison Celtic soul feel. Indeed, Van gets an even more direct nod with the driving, brass flourished Domino (Time Will Tell), sharing its title, of course, with the similarly styled number off Morrison’s His Band and the Street Choir. Curiously, the equally urgent I Am The Song has virtually the same groove.
It’s back to the Dylan references with the soulful mid-tempo Gulfport, You’ve Been on My Mind while, bizarrely, the sax-burnished John the Gun has both a sort of laid-back Jack Johnson surfer feel and a mention for goth outfit Sisters of Mercy.
He ends with another Morrison echo, Caledonia My Love, and, finally, with piano and some throaty guitar, the rousing gospel-tinged call to arms and union against the darkness When The Wall Comes Down. There’s plenty of artists out there bemoaning and protesting Trump America with their gloomy and pessimistic visions. Taylor clearly shares their sentiments, but chooses to look to a brighter tomorrow, banging the drum for hope as he sings “I feel like my luck is turning…..We’ll be alright tonight.” Hallelujah to that.