Album: Hiss Golden Messenger – Quietly Blowing It review

by Craig Howieson

Looking inwards to provide a message of hope in the face of adversity, M.C Taylor’s latest record is testament to musics uniting force

‘It’s cradle to the grave / So be good to each other.’ (Hardlytown)

America is a land of wide open spaces and supposedly limitless opportunities. Mountain ranges and dusty plains, it is a cornucopia of possibilities to find not only peace, but to find yourself. It is a country that Hiss Golden Messenger, led by chief songwriter, M.C Taylor, have captured better than most over the past decade. From the now fabled kitchen table recordings that made up Bad Debt, to the full blown country rockers of the Grammy nominated Terms of Surrender, Taylor harls his songs with the scuffed denim resilience of his North Carolina base – while simultaneously delving deep into the harder to access recesses of the heart and soul. 

Not dissimilar to the equally prolific Damien Jurado, Taylor has masterfully crafted his own voice, and, despite never straying too far from it, he works to the extremities of his parameters. His latest offering, Quietly Blowing It, is mounted upon the backdrop of a crumbling Mount Rushmore as Taylor casts a fearful and despairing eye on the implosion of decency and the disintegration of his homeland around him. 

However, despite its outward gaze, the record does not find Taylor looking for an external rescue. He is clear that the work it takes to make a meaningful change starts far closer to home: in how he can better himself to become a more positive impact on the world, and use his position in some small way to uplift and inspire others to do the same. Amidst the lazy day swell of surf rock guitars and smooth soul of It Will If We Let It, he reminds us ‘You’re not alone.’ And in fact, compassion and citizenship are at the heart of Quietly Blowing It, as is the notion that we need to look out for one another, as Taylor sings on the title track, ‘You gotta let someone in / That’s all that’ll save you.’ 

Hiss Golden Messenger have always had more depth to their well than many of their alt-country counterparts, drawing from the rich history of American music like thirsty roots delving deep into drought blighted ground. Country, soul, gospel, rock, funk and jazz all find a place on Quietly Blowing It as Taylor celebrates the diverse origins of his country’s richest traditions as a means of providing hope for the future. As the squall of guitar bleeds out over a thicket of horns in the outro of Way Back In The Way Back, it is hard not to be reminded of the redemptive power of music and the promise of better times it can conjure.

In dark times, we need a light to cling to. Or perhaps, as Taylor puts it on one of the record’s most resonant lines, we should ‘hope hope is contagious’ (If It Comes In The Morning). Amen to that.

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