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Hickory Wind

Hiss Golden Messenger – Lateness of Dancers

I did not have especially high expectations for this album given HGM’s utterly unremarkable 2013 release, Haw. Their newest album for Merge Records certainly isn’t anything especially original, but the songs that comprise Lateness of Dancers are so welcoming, so casual and familiar in their hazy mid-tempo folk melodies, that I had a hard time letting them go. Lead singer M.C. Taylor has matured as a songwriter, and the extra year seems to have given him some life experiences worth sharing. The best songs are the uncluttered ones. When the band tries to get too far from their pleasantly simple Americana, such as on the disastrous boogie-rock blues of “I’m a Raven (Shake Children),” they come across as unconvincing and lacking in much conviction. Taylor simply doesn’t have the voice to sing the blues. However, the songs function admirably when the sparse arrangements don’t get in the way of Taylor’s voice, which works best when it doesn’t have to do too much. “Black Dog Wind (Rose of Roses)” and “Chapter & Verse (Ione’s Song)” are sparse and lovely, the latter’s subtle strings and understated piano are particularly moving. There are also a couple of uptempo songs worth noting. The album’s single, “Saturday’s Song” has a nice guitar break that recalls the Grateful Dead at their most focused, and “Mahogany Dread” has some splashes of organ that gives the song a bit of a kick. The album’s final song, “Drum,” adds a touch of banjo and fiddle and closes things out with sounds recalling Bob Dylan & the Band’s “Basement Tapes.” Overall, this isn’t earth-shattering stuff, but it is eminently listenable and worth throwing into any rotation set.


RIYL: Wilco, 1970s Bob Dylan, American Beauty-era Grateful Dead

DNP: None

Recommended Tracks: 9, 10, 2, 3, 1

Label: Merge Records

Release: Sept. 9, 2014

Reviewed By Vince Meserko 9/20/14