Singer-songwriter MC Taylor and his long-running musical project Hiss Golden Messenger have dabbled in many sounds and styles over the years: psychedelia to country to folk rock. If his recent Free at Noon performance is an indication, his next record, Quietly Blowing It, will explore Taylor’s love of American gospel, soul, and R&B.

This was immediately evident in the opening performance of “Sanctuary,” where Taylor’s voice traveled in rolling vocal melodies delivering lyrics about strength and struggle: “That little light’s gotta last a while,” and “Get used to the bad news, it’s all part of the show,” and the self-referential “Cant get out of my own mind, but I know how to sing about it.”

Taylor got more explicit about his inspirations in a performance of the slower, lower, more contemplative “If It Comes In The Morning.” Taylor said this tune exists thanks to “the music of some of the songwriters that were really good about writing about hope, writing about trying to hold on to hope. People like Staple Singers and Curtis Mayfield, they were really good at that, even if they didn’t feel particularly hopeful themselves, they recognize hope as an animating force.”

This alternated with moments of bright, pure optimism: “My Wing,” a bright song from Hiss Golden Messenger’s 2019 album Terms of Surrender that Taylor says was written on a hillside in Nelson County, Virginia, as well as the Dylan-esque “Jenny Of The Roses” from 2017’s Hallelujah, Anyhow and a beautifully stripped-down take on “Biloxi” from 2016’s Heart Like a Levee.

“I wrote this song right about the time of my son Elijah’s sixth birthday,” said Taylor. “And tomorrow is his twelfth birthday, so this song is getting up there in age, just like my son.”

Watch the performance in full, delivered from Taylor’s hometown of Durham, North Carolina, below, and explore the virtual Free at Noon archives here.

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My Wing
If It Comes In The Morning
Jenny Of The Roses