Hiss Golden Messenger
The last couple of albums by Hiss Golden Messenger have been premium examples of the band’s prominence in the regional folk music world. Now comes a reissue of Bad Debt, an album once lost five years ago that fits right along with the rest of its discography.
Starting off a little too slow with a couple of forlorn numbers, the record really kicks off with the title track. “Bad Debt,” too, is similarly melancholic, but adeptly utilizes the emotional voice of lead singer Michael Taylor and some inspired guitar playing. The only wish is that it lasted longer than its brief three minutes.
The lo-fi quality of the record is extremely endearing, tying perfectly into Taylor’s soulful singing. The sparse and sorrowful “Straw Men Red Sun River Gold” is a particular standout, anchored by Taylor’s smoky vocal performance.
Taylor doesn’t have a typically strong voice, but his passionate warbling makes songs like “Call Him Daylight” and “Far Bright Star” all the better.
Some songs have a clear country and blues influence, albeit with mixed results. “The Serpent Is Kind” is a tender and poignant blues and folk song while “O Little Light” struggles to incorporate country twangs and rhythms.
Later tracks begin to blur together and none of them are all that memorable. At times, Bad Debt is little more than solid folk music.
Nonetheless, Hiss Golden Messenger is exceedingly strong throughout most of the record, and the reissue is a reminder that the band has been strong for a while.
— Mac Gushanas
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