Weekend Listening: The Southern Soul of Hiss Golden Messenger

Should you find yourself with some alone time this coming weekend, perhaps while cooking breakfast before anyone else in the house is awake, or, maybe even better, sitting down with a cup of coffee and a the paper, consider allowing Heart Like a Levee, the new album from songwriter M.C. Taylor’s Hiss Golden Messenger project, to provide the soundtrack. 

It’s a perfect early-morning record, built around the rich, slinky sounds of 70s-style soul made famous in places like Memphis and Muscle Shoals, but you’ll also find elements of gospel, folk, and all manner of traditional Americana. Lyrically, Taylor’s tackling the big stuff here: namely, his ability to balance his contradictory commitments to music and family. The rest of us may not have to go on tour for six weeks every couple months, but it’s deeply relatable nonetheless — what parent among us hasn’t experienced the extreme guilt of missing a child’s game or even bedtime? 

But still, Heart Like a Levee feels like an optimistic record, a triumphant one, even. Taylor’s voice is warm and expressive, sometimes reminiscent of the great Peter Case, elements of whose rustic folk can be detected here. Fans of smart-guy country standbys Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson will find a lot to like as well. 

Heart Like a Levee is out now, via Merge Records. Stream it on Spotify.