Hiss Golden Messenger - Quietly Blowing It Music Album Reviews

Hiss Golden Messenger - Quietly Blowing It Music Album Reviews
Despite its grand scope and good intentions, the latest album from M.C. Taylor is the sound of an artist beginning to repeat himself: lite music for dark times.

The crickets come in early on Quietly Blowing It, between the second and third songs. As the rustic, two-step rhythm of “The Great Mystifier” winds down, the guitars are replaced by the quiet burble of insects, a lonesome nighttime ambience interrupted by a lurch into the stumbling, country-funk dirge “Mighty Dollar.” It’s an odd bit of sequencing: a solitary sound bridging two songs that are the opposite of solitary. It’s also a familiar bit of sequencing: M.C. Taylor used a similar backdrop on Hiss Golden Messenger’s 2011 album Poor Moon and again on 2014’s Lateness of Dancers. Those were daring arrangements, especially the latter, which found the North Carolina countryside to be a lively collaborator. By contrast, the crickets on Quietly Blowing It sound more like shorthand, a nod to what worked before. This attempt to transport you to some stretch of woods or to a front porch at sunset instead only reminds you that this is an artist beginning to repeat himself.

It’s not just the crickets: Listening to Hiss Golden Messenger’s ninth proper album in 13 years (not counting live releases, joint albums, and a box set), it’s hard to shake the sense that you’ve heard all of this before. “Sanctuary,” for example, opens with a tentative acoustic strum before the rest of the band comes crashing in, but that trick worked better on previous albums, where it depicted an artist who’d come to a crossroads, agonized over his path, then set on his way with a new spring in his step. Here it just sounds like a thing that happens in a Hiss Golden Messenger song. The title track recalls “Devotion” from 2013’s Haw and so many other airy ballads he’s written in the past. Even the album cover looks like a mashup of Lateness of Dancers and Hallelujah Anyhow.

Except for two co-writes with Anaïs Mitchell and Gregory Alan Isakov, Taylor wrote most of the songs alone at his North Carolina home and recorded in his small office studio. He then recruited an impressive roster of headline guests, including Taylor Goldsmith from Dawes and legendary country guitarist/producer Buddy Miller. Together, they worked up some moments of exuberance and experimentation, like the rousing ending of “Way Back in the Way Back” and the Nebraska-style harmonica that haunts “Glory Strums (Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner).” On “Angels in the Headlights,” Taylor ties up a sun-bleached pedal steel, a drunken piano, and a nylon-string guitar with baling twine, creating something both strange and affecting. But that short song is a parenthetical aside on an album full of grandiose declarations about the world today. This is a statement album, broad and populist to a fault.

Taylor writes about big issues—income inequality, political corruption, a society fraying at its edges—but these complex matters are undermined by the rote uplift in his songs, an optimism assumed but never really earned. On previous albums, he fashioned songs into question marks, interrogating God and himself, all with the understanding that faith has more to do with struggle than resolution. His songs were so relatable for being so vividly private: a still, small voice amplified through vintage speakers. The songs on Quietly Blowing It, however, are more explanatory than exploratory, treating pat pronouncements as pop profundities because he already knows where he stands in relation to these issues. They’re already settled in his head and in his heart, and he wants you to know it. “Feeling bad, feeling blue, can’t get out of my own head,” he sings on “Sanctuary,” a would-be anthem of perseverance. “But I know how to sing about it.” And yet, the verses sound clipped, the call-and-response on the chorus nowhere near as rousing as you expect from the man who wrote “Heart Like a Levee” and “Saturday’s Song.” The payoff never comes. Good intentions don’t guarantee good art.

In this case, writing such big songs erases much of the nuance in Taylor’s lyrics, reducing those thorny questions to bumper-sticker declarations. “Up with the mountains, down with the system… that keeps us in chains,” he sings on opener “Way Back in the Way Back.” He sends John Prine into the great beyond with the cringeworthy farewell: “Handsome Johnny had to go, child.” There’s a clunker line in every song, and “Mighty Dollar” is nothing but. This is art that strives and strains so hard for meaning and weight that it threatens to become meaningless and weightless: lite music for dark times. Taylor includes in the liner notes a quote from U.S. poet laureate Joy Harjo: “Then, you must do this: help the next person find their way through the dark.” Those are wise words and for any artist a noble calling, but Taylor is so concerned about lighting the way for others that he’s stumbling over his own feet.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Hiss Golden Messenger - Quietly Blowing It Music Album Reviews Hiss Golden Messenger - Quietly Blowing It Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on July 07, 2021 Rating: 5


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