Hiss Golden Messenger is the new project put together by MC Taylor (who goes by the name of Jai Lil Diamond on Country Hai East Cotton) and Scott Hirsch, formerly of the San Francisco based ambient Americana band the Court and Spark. whose records with Taylor and Hirsch had a laid-back feel (although the live band tended to rock a lot harder than the albums.) After that band was laid to rest. Taylor and Hirsch started work on a new project, and the resulting album is a lot harder-edged than their work as the Court and Spark, although their fusion of folk, dub, jazz, blues, and rock is still evident. The record took more than three years to make and was recorded in San Francisco, New York, and Taylor's new home in North Carolina, where he moved to study ethnomusicology. A large cast of co-conspirators helped out, but the sound is a logical extension of what they were doing with the Court and Spark, a band that often got tagged as a country outfit, perhaps because they used pedal steel in their arrangements, although it was always played in a most un-country manner. Pedal steel shows up again here on "O Nathaniel," which could be called ambient country reggae. The pedal steel here isn't country, just another icy breeze blowing across a blue landscape, and the blending of reggae and cowboy rhythms sounds so natural you'll wonder why no one's ever tried it before. Despite its title, "Boogie Boogie" is a dark, droning piece that sounds like a reinvented prison work song with a funeral drumbeat and lots of squalling psychedelic guitar. "Isobel" shows off Taylor's warm, distinctive voice in a mournful, Memphis-flavored R&B setting. "Tongue in Cheek" is a faux-Celtic ballad delivered by Taylor, his acoustic guitar, and a basic bodhran jig time beat, while "Row" is a country-rock song about a flood, metaphorical or actual. Banjo, electric piano, and simple percussion weave a mood of inevitable disaster with a slide or pedal steel adding ghostly accents. "Watch out for the Cannonball" has a jittery beat and a synthesizer string chart that's more Stan Getz's Focus than ELO. Hiss Golden Messenger is looser than the Court and Spark with lots of extended instrumental work giving the tracks an expansive feel without ever losing focus. The album was produced in a limited edition of 500 for the duo's own small label, but it's well worth tracking down.
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AllMusic Review by j. poet