Friday, December 8, 2017

Hiss Golden Messenger at the Bowery Ballroom

Vocalist/guitarist MC Taylor grew up in Irvine, Los Angeles, where his father had been a member of a local band, the Settlers. Taylor then rocked with multi-instrumentalist Scott Hirsch in the hardcore punk band Ex-Ignota and then the indie rock band The Court & Spark, both of which were based in San Francisco, California. In 2007 he moved again to study folklore at a university in Durham, North Carolina. There he started the concept for his folk music persona, Hiss Golden Messenger, which Taylor describes as not so much a band as a musical approach. Hiss Golden Messenger's ninth and most recent studio album, Hallelujah Anyhow, was released on September 22, 2017.

Hiss Golden Messenger has no firm line-up, but at the Bowery Ballroom for a two-night series the musicians consisted of Taylor, Ryan Gustafson on guitar, Phil Cook on keyboards and harmonica, James Wallace on organ and percussion, Mike Lewis on saxophone, Skylar Gudasz on vocals, Michael Libramento on bass, and Darren Jesse on drums. Together, they provided earthy backup for Taylor's unrefined vocal delivery, Bob Dylan-esque phrasings and bright country-rock melodies. When Taylor was not singing, much of the set's extended instrumental breaks had a rambling, almost shoegaze feel in that the compositions breezed along on a plateau rather than climbed to a summit. This effect situated the songs in a pleasant and relaxed groove that was as comfortable as a fleece wrap. The songs that did build, however, especially towards the end of the set, were all the more invigorating because they engaged the band's grooves into a louder and faster body. Hiss Golden Messenger has developed a new and interesting twist to homespun back porch jams.

Visit Hiss Golden Messenger at

  1. When the Wall Comes Down
  2. Saturday’s Song
  3. Jenny of the Roses
  4. Biloxi
  5. Gulfport You’ve Been On My Mind
  6. Blue Country Mystic
  7. Mahogany Dread
  8. Don’t Let Me Down [The Beatles cover]
  9. Like A Mirror Loves A Hammer
  10. Red Rose Nantahala
  11. Highland Grace
  12. Caledonia, My Love
  13. Domino
  14. I Won’t Back Down [Tom Petty cover]
  15. Lost Out In the Darkness
  16. I’m a Raven (Shake Children)
  17. I Am the Song
  18. Southern Grammar
  19. John the Gun
  1. Friendship [Roebuck "Pops" Staples cover]
  2. Drum