Hiss Golden Messenger “Hallelujah Anyhow” (Merge Records, 2017)

“Hallelujah Anyhow” is the sixth release by self-styled ‘Nowhere Man’ M C Taylor under the moniker Hiss Golden Messenger. His band consists of an eclectic variety of musicians including Brad Cook, Phil Cook, Chris Boerner, Josh Kaufman, Darren Jessee, Michael Lewis, and Scott Hirsch with additional vocals by Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, Tift Merritt, Skylar Gudasz, Tamisha Waden, Mac McCaughan, and John Paul White. Phew! There are some potent names in the Americana world among that list which is a testament to both the song-writing ability and leadership qualities of Taylor that he managed to assemble such a team.

Less than a year after Taylor’s fifth album “Heart Like A Levee” and he remains the thinking man’s songwriter, chasing the light in a world of desolation, his faith as his crutch. Taylor is vague about the inspirations behind Hallelujah Anyhow and the direction he is going in relation to his previous work but recurring themes of love and hope during moments of darkness and confusion continue to permeate throughout Hallelujah. The overriding message seems to be that he gets knocked down, but he gets up again.

The optimism is evident from the off in the upbeat folk-rock of Jenny Of The Roses as Taylor muses that ‘I guess I’ve never been, afraid of the darkness. It’s just a different kind of light’ and the pounding bass drum and blues harp of Lost Out In The Darkness drives the point home. Jaw has a country blues feel as Darren Jessee turns his talents to a simple two-step rhythm while the mandolin meanders under a lap steel and Hammond organ riff to the distinctive scarecrow featherweight of Taylor’s lead vocals.

The next track proves that the latest incarnation of Taylor’s project is possibly the hardest to pin down yet. Harder Rain is nothing short of downright soul music as soaring backing vocals and saxophone lay down the groove . Each song is different in nature to the last and contains the potential for an inclusion in the Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs. And so the conclusion is there to be made should you wish to do so that this is not an album about a particular kind of music so much as one with a personal message as suggested earlier, a message of love and perseverance, solitude and hope. Around every corner are pearls of wisdom to be found encompassed inside a Quality Street tin of musical variety. This makes Hallelujah Anyhow a difficult album to fully appreciate in the sense that it loses something in musical coherence but full credit must be given to M.C Taylor for the courage in using his music to inspire rather than simply appeal to fans of a certain genre. In the words of Helen Keller, “The best and most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or even heard, but must be felt with the heart”.

Author: Tim Merricks

Just a regular Joe with a country blues disposition.

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