Album: Hiss Golden Messenger – O Come All Ye Faithful review

by Philip Moss

M.C Taylor’s new record of seasonal assortments is not so much just a festive record, as one filled with unbounded spirit

On paper, it’s an interesting prospect: a ‘holiday album’ featuring traditional Christmas songs, originals and covers. The worry would be that it could hitch itself too tightly to a sleigh ride of jingling bells. But there is no such issue here – as M.C Taylor curates a tasteful collection that, bar some of the lyrical content, could be enjoyed at any time of the year.

Opening with Hung Fire, it is immediately not a Christmas record in sound. Warm acoustic guitars and Taylor’s even warmer voice – ‘St Nick’s at the race track… trying to make it rain with his pay check’  brings a touch of humour, before it falls into a late contender for one of the best choruses of the year – ‘It’s Christmas, baby, thank god we made it!’ Joy, love and hope – it’s all wrapped up, and without any of the radio filled Christmas song cliches in sight.

Of course, there are passing references to the holiday season glittered throughout. But this is a record most concerned with spirit. Woody Guthrie’s Hanukkah Dance is updated with a three dimensional arrangement that places its melody at the heart, and transcends being simply a song of faith. While Taylor’s version of Spiritualized’s 1992 classic, Shine a Light, is slow, patient, and reflective, as a Mark Hollis-alike searching guitar twists around his reverb covered voice.

As he referenced in a recent interview with us, M.C Taylor placed a line from the Joy Harjo poem, For Calling the Spirit Back from Wandering the Earth in Its Human Feet, in the liner notes of his last record, Quietly Blowing It. Summarising every single word and note that comes through on O Come All Ye Faithful, the line – ‘help the next person find their way through the dark’ – could so easily be the title of this record. It’s a shining light – perfectly placed to help us navigate the dark, wintery months. And a reminder – an opportunity to reflect at this most precious time of year – of what life is really all about.

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