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Hiss Golden Messenger - Jump For Joy (Album Review)

Friday, 25 August 2023 Written by Craig Howieson

Photo: Graham Tolbert

Over the past 20 years one consistent trait displayed by Hiss Golden Messenger’s M.C Taylor has been his love of music, and his unwavering belief in its power to overcome. In the face of failures, periods of depression and the general toll that life can take he has been steadfast in his commitment to creativity, and the restorative effect it has on both him and his listeners. His latest release ‘Jump for Joy’ may well be the best example of the jubilant feeling that lurks deep within all of his work.

Taylor has settled into a comfortable alt-Americana style over recent years but he and his sublimely talented band have managed to give each new record a life and voice of its own. Released in 2019, ‘Terms Of Surrender’ was fast-paced and immediate, whereas its follow up Quietly Blowing It was a wistful, reflective list threaded with gold. By way of contrast, ‘Jump for Joy’ is a more ruminative affair. 

A vibe is established on opener 20 Years and a Nickel as Taylor’s soulful voice is closely followed by loose guitar chords. “There's no such thing as a simple song / I’m convinced of it / I should know,” he hums, but the following tracks unfurl with almost effortless grace. 

There is a tempered sense of contentment throughout, with ideas and melodies scattered like a handful of seeds that grow over time into something special. Tracks such as Jesus Is Bored are pretty on first listen. But repeated plays reveal its sunkissed keys and carefully charted directional changes to be something truly vital. 

Told from his own perspective and the semi-autobiographical character Michael Crow, Taylor paints vivid pictures of lessons learned the hard way, and of life's little victories. There are tender, insightful moments that reveal a heart torn between what is easy, and what feels right, and despiste the celebratory title there are tough spells along the way. 

But on the penultimate track My Old Friends — as Taylor sings “Guitars and getting older / It’s something to believe in,” — you can feel the love he has for music, and for those around him, radiating out from his voice. His path may not have always been easy, and the search for that perfect song may continue, but at least he’s having some fun along the way.


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