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Hiss Golden Messenger in Leeds

Hiss Golden Messenger
Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
Saturday 18th June 2022, £18.50
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I went looking for peace, says songwriter M.C. Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger about his new album Quietly Blowing It, out June 25, 2021, on Merge Records. Its not exactly a record about the state of the worldor my worldin 2020, but more a retrospective of the past fi ve years of my life, painted in sort of impressionistic hues. Maybe I had the presence of mind when I was writing Quietly Blowing It to know that this was the time to go as deep as I needed to in order to make a record like this. And I got the time required in order to do that. He pauses and laughs ruefully. I got way more time than I needed, actually.

Quietly Blowing It was written and arranged by Taylor in his home studiohis 8 10 sanctuary packed fl oor to ceiling with books, records, and old guitarsas he watched the chaotic world spin outside his window. Writing became a daily routine, he explains, and that was a ballast for me. Having spent so much time on the road over the past ten years, where writing consistently with any kind of fl ow can be tricky, it felt refreshing. And being in my studio, which is both isolated from and totally connected to the life of my family, felt appropriate for these songs. Between March and June, Taylor wrote and recorded upwards of two dozen songsin most cases playing all of the instruments himself before winnowing the collection down and bringing them to the Hiss band. In July, the group of musicians, with Taylor in the production seat, went into Overdub Lane in Durham, NC, for a week, where they recorded Quietly Blowing It as an organic unit honed to a fi ne edge from their years together on the road. We all needed to be making that music together, he recalls. Weve all spent so many years traveling all over the world, but in that moment, it felt cathartic to be recording those particular songs with each other in our own small hometown.

Throughout Quietly Blowing It, Taylor brings his keen eye to our broken American momentas he fi rst sang on Hiss Golden Messengers critically acclaimed, GRAMMY®-nominated Terms of Surrenderin ways that feel devastatingly intimate and human. Beginning with the wanderers lament of Way Back in the Way Back, with its rallying cry of Up with the mountains, down with the system, Taylor carries the listener on a musical journey that continually returns to themes of growing up, loss, obligation, and labor with piercing clarity, and his musical infl uencesincluding classic Southern soul and gospel, renegade country, and spiritual jazzhave never felt more genuine. Indeed, Quietly Blowing It is a distillation of the rolling Hiss Golden Messenger groove, from the rollicking, Allman-esque The Great Mystifi er to the chiming falsetto soul of It Will If We Let It, to the smoky, shuffl ing title track with its bittersweet guitar assist from Nashville legend Buddy Miller. The album ends with soulful lead single Sanctuary, a song about trying to reconcile tragedy and joy, with references to John Prine (Handsome Johnny had to go, child), economic disparity, and the redemptive quality of hope. Indeed, when he sings, Feeling bad, feeling blue, cant get out of my own mind; but I know how to sing about it, it feels like the albums spiritual thesis. Throughout Quietly Blowing It, Taylor reckons with the tumultuous present in wholly personal terms, encouraging listeners to do the same. These songs always circle back to the things that I feel like I have a handle on and the things that Im not proud of about myself. When I think of the phrase quietly blowing it, I think of all the ways that Ive misstepped, misused my gifts, miscommunicated. Born on the level, quietly blowing it. Thats whats on my mind there. Always fuckin up in little ways.

Surrounding himself with a trusted cast of collaborators that includes Miller, songwriter Gregory Alan Isakov, songwriter and Tony Awardwinning playwright Anaïs Mitchell, multiinstrumentalist Josh Kaufman, Dawes brothers Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith, and his oldest musical confidant Scott Hirsch, Taylor has made his most audacious and hopeful work yet with Quietly Blowing It; its an album that speaks personal truth to this moment in which the old models of being feel broken and everything feels at stake. I dont know that the peace that I crave when Im far from home exists, actually, says Taylor. Its more complicated. I still dont know what peace means for me, because I can be sitting on the couch watching a movie with my family and be completely tangled up in my head. But if I keep on doing my own personal work on myselfwriting records like Quietly Blowing ItI have to think that Im getting closer.

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