We are excited to announce that Hiss Golden Messenger’s Poor Moon, the band’s first masterpiece and our second-ever release, is once again available in a limited 4th edition of 500 copies. This newest edition comes with all the fixins: tip-on jackets, edition number, and a new label color.
These pressings tend to move quickly, so order your copy today if you don’t own this beauty.
Composed and arranged by Head Messenger M.C. Taylor at his home in the rural Piedmont mill town of Pittsboro and recorded with longtime collaborator Scott Hirsch in New York, California and North Carolina, Poor Moon offers a moving continuation of the spiritually-charged song cycle commenced on the critically acclaimed Bad Debt album (2010) and completed with the masterpiece Haw (2013). Treading a red-clay road between Bad Debt and Country Hai East Cotton in sound and sentiment, it was the first fully electric ensemble recording since the highly limited HGM live release Root Work in 2010.
Featuring contributions from Terry Lonergan, Nathan Bowles (Black Twig Pickers; Pelt), Hans Chew (D. Charles Speer & the Helix), Matt Cunitz (Brightblack Morning Light), Tom Heyman (The Court & Spark), and others, Poor Moon represents both an elaboration and inversion of previous Hiss Golden Messenger efforts, proposing an America at perpetual sundown, wracked by devotion, wrecked by celebration. Named in homage to the Canned Heat track penned by the immortal Blind Owl, Poor Moon conjures the unsteady experience of soul at home in the wild, and it stands as a captivating document of Southern songcraft.
“Mystical country. An eerie yellowing photograph.”
“Poor Moon is a fantastic, on-repeat record that recalls the aesthetic risks and rewards of the best stuff produced by Laurel Canyon’s singer-songwriters and, decades later, the stylistically daring musicians associated with New Weird America. Hiss Golden Messenger pairs an instant accessibility with careful complexity [on these] 13 tracks of skewed, country-soul greatness.”
–Grayson Currin, Pitchfork (7.8)
“A small but grand statement, achieving country-soul greatness… Poor Moon is a beautiful, accomplished record… ‘A Working Man Can’t Make It No Way’ deserves to be covered by Merle Haggard… Poor Moon is gospel, played with blue notes. It is the sound of a sweet soul contemplating deliverance; as mellow and fierce and fearful as that.”
–Alastair McKay, Uncut (4 stars)
“Poor Moon is the sound of Taylor, joined by his long-time co-writer and arranger Scott Hirsch, corralling a mighty and potentially messy herd of, in the words of Tony Joe White, “elements and things” — musical and textual; popular and folkloric; sacred and secular and pretty well goddamned — into a folk-rock masterpiece that reveals itself both in short bursts and over long arcs, realized both minutely and effortlessly. Needless to say, it sounds as good, as vital, and as essential today as it did when it first reached me last summer. Hiss Golden Messenger is now the morning-line favorite for 2012, and thus a shoe-in for hitting my Other Music best-of trifecta.”
–Nathan Salsburg, Other Music
“While a great deal of what’s on offer today is as deep as a paper cut, there are beautiful, thorny exceptions, music that pricks us and reminds us of our humanity and potential transcendence. North Carolina-based-former-S.F.-area ontologically charged roots rockers Hiss Golden Messenger till green, fragrant ground, the smell of overturned earth redolent of decay and life in all its tendril throwing glory rising from their work… This band shuffles with archetypes and grasps at the sky in the hopes some higher power high-fives them somewhere along their weary road. It is workingman’s music that melds elements of Merle Haggard with Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and Rev. Gary Davis, where songs pulled from usually hidden places serve as the listener’s companions into their own craggy, shadowy reaches. By turns worshipful and wary, Hiss Golden Messenger is bread for incarnation and transubstantiation, feeding the body in the here and now while simultaneously nourishing less obvious appetites in one’s soul. It also happens to be great music sung in Taylor’s lovely, almost-too-honest voice, a dirt field relative to Sam Cooke and the Jerry Garcia who sang ballads that make one feel split open. The music is an evolving blur of folk, country, blues and the outside-the-mainstream work of pioneers like Roy Harper, Bert Jansch and John Martyn.”
–Dennis Cook, Dirty Impound
On the fourth Hiss Golden Messenger album, North Carolina songwriter M.C. Taylor sings unflinching country tunes that evoke the still-water depths of James Taylor and Merle Haggard. And that’s a relief… Taylor offers his more successful folk-rock peers a much needed lesson in restraint. But there’s still plenty of Biblical dread coursing through these quiet little songs, and it comes to a rolling boil with “Jesus Shot Me in the Head,” Taylor’s testimonial about finding God. “I was getting wrecked in a Motel 6 when he showed up in the back,” he croons. Then Taylor bids farewell to his vices, his sins and his sketchball buddies. What a deliciously complicated take on the intervention of higher powers. To be born again, part of you has to die.
–Chris Richards, The Washington Post
“Poor Moon, the most fully developed album yet by indie rock veteran and new Durham resident M.C. Taylor, might be strong enough to reclaim [Americana], that noun of convenience. This is, at least, pan-American music, gracefully shading a bedrock of refined songcraft with touches of soul, funk, bluegrass, classic rock and ancient country. Taylor delivers arrangements that are alternately pretty as a Southern daybreak and threatening as a late summer thunderstorm rolling across the horizon. None of these flourishes seems intentional or forced; they simply seem like the output of lifelong synthesis. And on Poor Moon, Taylor takes nothing for granted, evaluating his career, God, sobriety and sanity with an absolute rebelliousness of spirit. Too young to be told and too wise to be foolish, Taylor writes, sings and records from a place of great wonder, as if these old sounds and these proverbial thoughts are new. For these perfect 45 minutes, they certainly feel that way.”
–Grayson Currin, The Independent Weekly (rated #1 album of 2011)
“Poor Moon represents a personal, very expansive view of America and Americana music, alternately recalling Dylan, Hank Williams and any back-porch pickup band, yet the superlatively breezy country-rock vibe conceals bleak implications about morality, fatherhood, and country. Taylor sees a darkness, and to his considerable credit, he never flinches.”
–Stephen Deusner, Salon.com, “The Most Underrated Albums of 2011″
“…Blends the tried-and-true methods of home-grown bluegrass with the catchiness of contemporary indie folk… Showcases [an] understanding of the folk tradition as history that lives, grows and moves its audience in deep, unpredictable ways.”
–NPR, World Café Next
“RECOMMENDED. Some of the most accomplished country-rock I’ve heard in some time is on this record. HGM frontman M.C. Taylor is versatile enough to be able to project both weathered ballads and soulful crooning, right at the lip of “hot country” tropes, as well as your country royalty (Hank, George, Townes, etc.) but mostly passionate-sounding, his laconic demeanor positioned well in a five-piece rock combo, with plenty of soul, and an understated hand that brings out the best in his songs. It’s not hard to see this guy playing the lothario in some roadhouse, with secrets he keeps tucked in his denim jacket. There are a number of guys in this vein right now (D. Charles Speer and Zachary Cale comes to mind, albeit from slightly more specific directions), and Taylor and co. are among the best. For fans of the genre, this can’t be beat. 500 numbered copies.”
–Doug Mosurock, Dusted/Still Single
“These are melodies and stories straight out of the same Appalachian hills that gave birth to Gaither Carlton and Clarence Ashley. Find me something more American than that.”
“From slide guitar laced country rock, to brooding country folk ballads, campfire bluegrass back porch hoedowns, super warm, melodic country tinged classic rock groovers, all of the tracks here fantastic, not a bum note in the bunch, the sound too, lush and expansive and so gorgeous, mandolin, clavinet, electric piano, violin, viola, fiddle, saxophone, banjo, Rhodes piano, all woven into probably the coolest country rock record we’ve heard in forever.”
“You might encounter Jesus here and there. Invoked from the pulpit or Facebook. In pro forma political pieties. Credited or blamed for events big and small. You probably didn’t encounter him in a roughneck Motel 6 as you were poised to fall into hell. He didn’t shoot you in the head. That shocking, illuminating redemption scene is just one revelation in the most richly rewarding music to arrive recently. Poor Moon, the latest recording by Hiss Golden Messenger, presents a struggle for attachment to spirit, to family, to meaning in an indifferent wilderness of temptation. The work of MC Taylor and Scott Hirsch, also longtime partners in The Court and Spark, Poor Moon embraces no dogma, thematically or musically. While deeply personal and deeply informed by Biblical allusion, Taylor’s lyrics often evoke places and feelings older than words; “Call Him Daylight” conjures a deity who could have walked straight out of the Rig Veda. And while the tones of traditional folk music frame the argument, the ecstatic soul of Curtis Mayfield makes just as clear a statement. Like Van Morrison circa Astral Weeks, HGM confounds traditional-music genre expectations.”
–Bob Moses, The Huffington Post