Hiss Golden Messenger boasts a rugged rock backbone at JBs
Hiss Golden Messenger | Photo by John Vettese

If all you know about Durham country-folk outfit Hiss Golden Messenger is that it’s the contemplative project of songwriter M.C. Taylor, think again. The band’s newest, Lateness of Dancers, was released this year by Merge Records and Paradise of Bachelors, and it expands the band’s vernacular into the realms of rugged country and hard-hitting rock and roll beats, in addition to the spaciness and solemnity that we’d heard previously. Along the same lines, the Hiss Golden Messenger live experience has expanded from Taylor and longtime collaborator Scott Hirsch playing a low-key set to a more robust, invigorating experience that was in fine form last Tuesday night at Johnny Brenda’s.”I know it’s a Tuesday night, but if you feel the urge to move your hips to this, that’s okay,” joked the band’s high-energy multiinstrumentalist Phil Cook, just before the swift beat of “Mahogany Dread” kicked in care of drummer Matt McCaughan. Cook alternated between classic Americana piano solos, rugged guitar leads and bucolic banjo, usually with a big smile on his face, while guitarist Matt Douglas also contributed hearty sax lines to “I’m A Raven (Shake Children).”

With such a tight band of players behind him – and opener Alexandra Sauser-Monnig joining him for beautiful harmonies on the breezy “Day O Day (A Love So Free)” – Taylor began to seem less the introspective introvert and more of a dynamic, Neil Young-esque frontman, particularly on the closing rager “Southern Grammar,” which did indeed have the JBs floor dancing. Bonus treat for those that stuck around for the encore was seeing Taylor play acoustic in the middle of the floor. Check out photos from the show in the gallery below.

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