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Sunday, August 17, 2014

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
August 16, 2014
Scott Foley

She was beautiful / It was circumstance / Watch the boat on the water / Learn to dance

This weekend, while KRFC was proudly broadcasting acts from the Bohemian Nights lineup, I was walking across shallow, cold rivers.  I climbed up mossy rocks reaching towards a high waterfall.  I walked gingerly across a field of "alpine tundra" along the continental divide, and maneuvered through driving rain and hail, a precipitous drop to my right.  I went to restaurants based solely on their Yelp! ratings ... 

One morning / One morning / Like a beggar I went roving  / With no clear sense of direction / and no coin in my cup

I also accidentally left my constant companion behind, my sack of music to preview.  Fortunately, I did pack my laptop, along with a digital copy of Hiss Golden Messenger's "major label breakthrough", The Lateness of Dancers.  My initial impression is that this is a much more commercial record than MC Taylor's previous work with the Paradise of Bachelors label. 

Girl of mine with silver in your hair / I still want you / It's getting hard to be easy now / A couple of kids / Mahogany dread / But happy days are still ahead

Returning to Haw and to Poor Moon, and even to Taylor's work with California's The Court & Spark, my suspicions were confirmed.  The new HGM material take a more direct route to the ears.  Whereas previous tunes meandered towards a general musical statement, the new songs often launch right into a hook.  Even more "impressionistic" moments like "Chapter & Verse (Ione's Song)" float atop an organ drone, or they punctuate a line with a reverse guitar loop. 

One day I tried to kneel / I tried to kneel but could not / They said, "Go ye to the holy house" / And I took the long way around

But tunes like "Drum" or the single that heralded the record, "Brother Do You Know the Road" remind us that beneath his more immediate sound, MC Taylor remains a folk singer.  As a lyricist, he falls firmly in that gospel/folk/country tradition, while adding impressionistic touches that make Lateness of Dancers a disarmingly personal statement. 

But at the moment the sun is shining right on me / And the road is shimmering in the haze / Oh Ione, your daddy's just as dark as can be / But I can be your little rainbow too

It's a jewel of a record that comes at the perfect time in our collective discovery of Hiss Golden Messenger.  It's a wandering through the wilderness that will eventually lead back home.  A plunge into a chilly creek that heightens the senses and makes us feel more alive. 

We'll be back to a full Routes & Branches Episode next Saturday, featuring the first sounds from Lucinda Williams' forthcoming double CD, as well as a second single from Ryan Adams' self titled record.  Expect new Pieta Brown, and whatever else has landed upon my desk.  While I'm always curious, we're anticipating a full day through the mountains tomorrow, so I'm not necessarily in a great hurry to find out. 

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