At the start of the pandemic, MC Taylor, AKA Hiss Golden Messenger, sat in his North Carolina basement studio and began several months’ of pouring out songs about “life as I felt it”. There was a lot going on outside – protests after the murder of George Floyd, the presidential election, and fires burning across the US – but his thoughts turned to some of the deeper issues underpinning it all, from class and inequality to the climate crisis.
He insists that Quietly Blowing It is more personal reflection than state-of-the-world address, but its gentle power lies in the way Taylor beautifully observes the impact on the ordinary human being. His soulful, Bob Dylan-ish country rockers aren’t an obvious vehicle for lines such as “up with the mountains, down with the system”, but the songs’ homespun warmth lets him tackle themes of love, loss, labour and despair against a backdrop of opaque, distant economic power. The slide guitar-teasing Glory Strums distantly recalls Fleetwood Mac’s mighty Dreams, and Mighty Dollar rallies to the cause of anyone trying to scratch a living.
The title track finds him watching the news and sighing “things don’t look too good”. However, the tunes are stirring and uplifting and the overall spirit is optimistic. As the father-of-two sings in the exquisite If It Comes in the Morning: “There’s a new day coming, we’ve been a long time running … but all hope is contagious.”