Photo by Harlan Campbell.

Photo by Harlan Campbell.

Today, April 2, 2013, is the official release date of Hiss Golden Messenger’s Haw. You can now purchase the album in any format from this website–including a free immediate digital download of the entire record–or buy the digital-only edition from our ShopBandcamp, iTunes, Amazon Music, or eMusic. We’ve been humbled by all the excellent press the album continues to receive. If you still need convincing to pick up a copy, check out some review excerpts and links below. Selah!

8.0. “Hiss Golden Messenger offers a fine corrective to the recent rash of folk anthems: The songs on Haw pose questions rather than offer easy reassurances, and head Messenger M.C. Taylor is more concerned with spiritual doubt than any kind of comforting certainty… Haw is fuller and more adventurous even than 2011’s Poor Moon, with a broader musical palette. There are shades of Charlie Poole and Charley Patton in these songs, but also tinges of AM Gold country, jazz, rock, and singer-songwriter pop. Rarely does dark doubt sound quite so inviting. Taylor understands that faith– in God, in music, in the flow of the Haw– is more about the struggle than the resolution.”

– Stephen Deusner, Pitchfork

“Haw is bristly, indelicate, often beautiful but never precious. It bursts with life… a low-key but muscular country groove, spinning out shimmering mirages of wah-wahed overtones, blues-bent meditations on god and man, and light-footed country rambles.  One of Taylor’s best assets is his voice, its surface pocked and criss-crossed with fissures and abrasions…  Whether Hiss Golden Messenger is whooping it up country style or slinking and slithering in a late-night approximation of Stax-ish soul, there’s a directness in its attack. These songs don’t refer to certain styles of music, they embody them, contradict them, warp them and, in the process, breathe life into them.”

– Jennifer Kelly, Dusted 

“MC Taylor has been quietly building an excellent discography of country-blues-soul-some-other-stuff-pop as Hiss Golden Messenger. Haw, his band’s newest record, is also its most clarified and beautifully bittersweet vision to date. These songs are subdued, even hushed, but never as laid back as they appear. There’s always some serious want or hurt or both roiling under the surface of Taylor’s sweet, soft vocals. The music too, with its drifting organs and warm guitar tones, may seem pleasant at first, until its edges show, or the seams stretch, and you feel the songs not luxuriating in the hard-won hope they aim at, but rather clinging to it tooth and nail. Haw is one of those albums that feels like it comes to you rather than you turning it on. It’s both journey and destination, full of feelings that seem both comforting and questionable. Hiss Golden Messenger isn’t new, and this isn’t the band’s first great record, but—if there’s any justice for great music—it’ll be the record that puts them on whatever map they want to be on. Because whatever path they forge on that map is worth following.”

– Matthew Fiander, PopMatters

“It’s largely a hot-blooded record, folk-rock thick with the blue-eyed soul elements — half Southern, half Californian — and countrified swagger that distinguished the excellent Poor Moon. But unlike the posturing that mars many contemporary iterations of this sort of music, Haw’s particular vigor (and that of HGM in general) isn’t a put-on. M.C. Taylor’s songs are brave, frank, grown up. The things they tackle and plumb — family, faith, ecstasy, salvation, virtue — cause lesser talents (and, compared to Taylor, most are lesser talents) to fumble and fail… It’s no understatement, and still not quite saying it, to say that M.C. Taylor is one of the most effective songwriters working today. And by working I mean like Donald Hall’s Connecticut Yankee grandfather advised one to work: “keep your health, and woik, woik, woik.” Taylor’s records sound like he’d agree. They sound like he knows that those two are inextricable, and so Haw trucks with nothing idle, nothing superficial. The work itself is the reward.”

– Nathan Salsburg, Other Music

“His finest full-length yet… gorgeous country-soul is both regionally astute and deeply satisfying on a number of levels.”

– Spin, “5 Best New Artists for April 2013”

“Throughout these songs, Taylor’s lyrics and the grain in his voice reveal that, whatever truths there are in these songs, they come from antiquity, and the land itself, which is an extension of the divine. The many different musics on Haw are familiar, timeless; they can be endlessly recombined for new purposes. But HGM stand out because they don’t combine them so much as play them simultaneously and inseparably as part of a single tradition. In a decade or two, Haw will sound as warm, clear, and spooky as it does today.”

– Thom Jurek, AllMusic

North Carolina songwriter M.C. Taylor doesn’t describe faith as a safe place so much as the destination across some unbridgeable gulf. Haw, Taylor’s new album as Hiss Golden Messenger, is a deep and stunning thing, 11 folk-rock songs steeped in comforting Appalachian melody and restless 21st-century anxiety.

-Chris Richards, The Washington Post

Four stars. “A love letter to both the geography and people of North Carolina… When HGM stretch out they become remarkable. Americana is often a genre with sepia-tinged glasses on; this is a rare and colorful leap forward.”

– Andy Fyfe, Q Magazine

Four stars. “Ancient stories of family, faith, and future… Taylor’s beseeching voice and invigorating take on gospel is sincere and moving.”


 Four stars. “This follow-up to 2010’s magnificent Poor Moon is no less exemplary than its predecessor… Sounding like it was recorded by a babbling river close to a magical forest, [it] gets the ooh and aah reaction of first contact with an eclipse. Taylor’s voice and lyrics manage to sound bafflingly deep and simply affecting by turn; the Hiss’ music is equally attractive… Nowt left to do but play it again.”

– Max Bell, Record Collector

 9/10. “MC Taylor’s 2011 album as Hiss Golden Messenger, Poor Moon, blended folk, soul, and gospel, revealing Taylor as a writer inside his own lyrical universe, hewn from Biblical imagery and folk mores. Haw is the same, but more so. The arrangements are bigger, the language more dense, the symbolism darker. Taylor is serious enough to understand that deliverance and pain are eternally intertwined.”

– Alistair McKay, Uncut

 “Haw is one of those albums that hits you like a bullet of light and brightens your day. As vital, uplifting, and righteous as drinking beers in the sunshine.”

– Was Ist Das?


 “Country soul that is equal parts Lambchop and Van Morrison.”

– HearYa

 “Feels like it wouldn’t be out of place somewhere in the first half of The Band’s catalog.”

– Sam Hockley-Smith, the Fader

 “M.C. Taylor further hones his soulful, creative take on American musical traditions. His best yet, possibly.”

– Uncut, Playlist

 “There’s a wonderful, loose mood to the songs on Haw, as if they’re being conjured up out of the air. It immediately recalls The Band in their heyday… sounds like it leapt out of Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks and found itself in a lovelorn Tom Waits ballad. A fantastic record.”

– The Real Music

 “While Bad Debt and Poor Moon dealt with Taylor’s questions about God, Haw centers on the family. Its 11 songs are perfectly crafted and expertly rendered.”

-Davis Inman, American Songwriter

“These are songs about existence and progression; an authentic, spiritual voice of sincerity for these modern, troubled times.”

– Matt Swain, Aesthetica

“A mesmerizing collection… Musically, it builds on Poor Moon‘s success, spinning various American musical roots into expressive sonic tapestries. Haw‘s songs — like the ones on Poor Moon — are cryptic and packed with potential interpretations. Taylor is again directing his roughly soulful voice at ruminations on faith, family and tradition, attempting to reconcile rigid ideologies with his own open-minded world view. He explores these ideas with minimal but powerfully meaningful lines, relying on symbols that listeners must decipher for themselves. Haw is filled with songs that demand this kind of critical thinking but that also satisfy more simply when it comes to the music. It’s an album that’s easy to fall into and enjoy for long periods.”

– Jordan Lawrence, Shuffle

“Haw” is “country” music in the same way that William Wordsworth’s early poetry is “rural”:  it seeks to address and confront contemporary challenges, and to do so by “speak(ing) a plainer and more emphatic language.” From start to finish, “Haw” is as bold as prophecy, but thankfully, its messages are never ambiguous. The lyrics are economical, because in any Hiss Golden Messenger recording, words are things of meaning and power… These eleven songs taken together are a beacon of hope, offering a forty-two minute respite of gentleness and hope from the eddies of despair that threaten to overwhelm the best among us. This is a vision of North Carolina fit to share with the entire world.”

– Melvin Pena, Papa Serf

Haw transports you to a place and time, and that’s a special connection that not all musicians are able to make.  However, Taylor seems to do it with ease as he packs his years of wisdom into a 42-minute album that flies by far too fast.  It’s selfish to want more, but it’s too damn good not to. Haw sets the bar high for 2013, it’s hard to think of an album this year that’s been as well defined.  This new batch of songs finds Hiss Golden Messenger foraying into new territories, bolder dynamics and more vibrant imagery make for one of the best North Carolina albums in recent memory.

– The Bottom String