M.C. Taylor: an inspired companion
Don’t be pretentious. Hiss Golden Messenger’s 2021 album Quietly Blowing It is a special experience. In almost every track, M.C. Taylor becomes an inspired companion. Surrounded by textures and blends that harken to many other big fish in the alt-country pond and beyond, listeners will no doubt let mid-album tracks slide and simply exist for their own sake alongside some definitive gems.
Taylor’s essay “Mourning in America,” which he wrote to coincide with the album, notes that Quietly Blowing It grew out of a necessity to be “creatively generative.” To this end, the album plays like a tarot reading: in the end, listeners won’t know whether the magic and the pleasure have been his or theirs.
In the first track, “Way Back in the Way Back,” consider the croony hum of the electric piano, the clean dubbed horns hitting from the second chorus and the simplicity of the song’s invocation: “Up with the mountains/ down with the system.” The breakdown section is a honeyed groove, making its way into one’s heart and setting the precedent for stretches of soulful instrumentation like one might expect from Van Morrison, Ray Lamontagne or Warren Zevon.
“The Great Mystifier,” the next track on the album, breaks us down in our boots with a bumping half-time feel, the way a reverent Neil Young tune would. While the song may present as straightforwardly rockabilly at first, we recognize Taylor’s creative choices at play when the pokey cowbell-and-harmonica jam is overlaid with a wailing, syncopated guitar riff that could call out to “China Cat Sunflower.” It ends with a slap upside the head: “Buddy, don’t ya know me?”
The funky, held back “Mighty Dollar” transfixes listeners as the organ oscillates, a guitar plucks out a chippy lead line and a thick bass line keeps the rhythm tucked in the pocket. It is a song that suggests Derek Trucks is listening somewhere beaming. Other tracks like the title track “Quietly Blowing It” and the slightly overproduced “It Will If We Let It” occupy the only space on the album that seems to be lacking.
The album redeems itself, literally and metaphorically, when the hymn-like “If It Comes in the Morning” steps in. Mentioning themes of hope and gratitude, Taylor works here to lift a collective spirit out of pandemic-fueled angst. The dubbed horns and wavering overdrive make us feel the power in self-reflection, and the stoicism hidden in the lyrics is representative of the album’s tone and message. The music video for the song is equally stoic and contemplative.
While the pace of the album may slow down or pick up on the artist’s whim, Taylor certainly has a knack for prosaic imagery. Quietly Blowing It is a relatable and prompt answer to the pandemic or at least a salve to get you through.