We’re so pleased that Hiss Golden Messenger’s Bad Debt is once again seeing the light of winter after years of scarcity. The album is a fan favorite for good reason–it’s both a pivotal episode in M.C. Taylor’s songwriting and the best example of his practice at its most direct and unadorned.
We hope many of you will join us at the release show on February 21 at the Cat’s Cradle Back Room in Carrboro, NC, when HGM will perform Bad Debt front to back, plus some surprises. FB invitation here and tickets here. Catch him on tour in the EU in a couple of weeks, also playing the entire album.
Acclaim for this deluxe reissue is rolling in, beginning with Rolling Stone. Read on for links and some choice words.
Intoxicating. His world-weary meditations – on God, demons and, yeah, debt – sound ancient, pulled out of the dirt, yet as immediate as a foreclosure. It’s lean music for lean times.
8.2. The field-recording aesthetic is the musical equivalent of sackcloth, especially compared to the lusher Appalachian folk-rock arrangements on his subsequent albums. Yet there is nothing missing from these performances, no sense of potential left untapped. These songs sound full and finished even in their austerity. Even so, a deep sense of uncertainty pervades every syllable and every strum, as though no question can ever be answer satisfactorily, and it is precisely that spiritual disaffection that separates Taylor from the artists for whom God’s existence and benevolence are givens. Rather than cynical or despairing, however, Bad Debt sounds hopeful, exuding a sense of hushed celebration. These are, after all, songs sung by a new dad.
Uncanny. Hiss Golden Messenger will dig deep into the core of you and rattle your bones. But it’s not all about fire and brimstone or religious ramblings; this music is just fundamentally phenomenal. Few songwriters can make songs as dynamic as those on Bad Debt with just an acoustic guitar, but Taylor seems to do so with ease. Whether you’re honing in on the brilliant lyricism or simply soaking in the aural wonders of this minimalistic folk album, there’s plenty to fall in love with about Bad Debt.
Deeply affecting. Clearly the pivotal point of M.C. Taylor’s artistic identity.
Bad Debt is an unflinching examination of faith, the self, doubt, rescue, redemption, parenthood, and coming to terms with the intertwining worlds of flesh and spirit. A quiet, stirring, utterly arresting collection by one of our best songwriter/poets.
It’s a crucial record to own. This is Taylor laying himself bare, confronting uncertainty and doubt, but always with an eye away from the darkness, towards a glowing glint of light. These songs, solitary as they are, build towards possibility, towards connection, towards community. Bad Debt isn’t about what you’re saddled with, it’s about what you get when you pay it off the hard way. It’s as rewarding an album for the listener as it seems to be for Taylor in these beautiful performances. It’s an album of second (or next) chances, and now you’ve got yours to hear this record. Take advantage of it.
8/10. A truly compelling listening experience. These sparse, hypnotic songs sound like they were carved from the soil, slices of elemental Americana storytelling that could have seen the light of day at any point since the early days of the 20th century. Intimate doesn’t begin to cover it: listening to Bad Debt feels like we’re gate-crashing a solitary jam session where someone had secretly left a tape recorder running. Most importantly, the songs are uniformly excellent. Required listening to anyone interested in modern American songcraft.
Bad Debt is Hiss Golden Messenger’s ultimate reduction… a record that deservedly occupies a special space in the Hiss Golden Messenger discography. You’ll recognize the sound if you’re a long-time Iron & Wine fan or among the legion of Nebraska diehards. There are so many enjoyable moments on Bad Debt that pointing out one in particular to cherish is futile. When it comes to the spiritual, Bad Debt is a worthy addition to a lineage that preaches the complicated records resonate strongest.
A stunning collection of songs. From his little seat in the kitchen or onstage, Taylor wonders aloud about life’s purpose, pleasures and perils, knowing full well that there’s no easy answer in heaven or hell.
9/10. It’s an extraordinary set… a lullaby for uncertain times, a moment of sudden clarity in a moving, mystical trip. This is Taylor’s For Emma, Forever Ago.
– Alastair McKay, Uncut