MC Taylor and Scott Hirsch seem to be musical soulmates. Their history goes back to 90’s experimental hardcore band Ex-Ignota [check out this short film about them made by Jack Johnson (yes, that Jack Johnson.)] They then found themselves in San Francisco with the country-rock indie almost-weres The Court and Spark. Their unashamed embrace of country-rock and mellow folk lead them briefly near the forefront of a burgeoning Alt-Country scene. That tranquil, rootsy sound mixed with an ever-present thirst for unique production and arrangements now seems like a clear prelude to HGM’s signature sonic territory (and is a must-listen for Hiss fans.) Ultimately, Taylor and Hirsch moved to the east coast and a new project was born. Taylor made his home in Durham, North Carolina and self-released the first few HGM albums.
Hiss Golden Messenger were on their forth album (2013’s sublime masterpiece Haw) before they were really discovered by the wider world and the musical gatekeepers. MC Taylor’s songwriting and lyrical soul-searching continued to blossom in their fantastic 2014 Merge debut Lateness of Dancers and last year’s great Heart Like a Levee.
This ‘bootleg‘ (pristinely recorded and released for free by the band) from an October 18, 2016 show at The Parish in Austin, TX shows the band at the height of their powers. Taylor and Hirsch have the sort of musical rapport that only comes after handfuls of albums and hundreds of shows together. In the middle of the show, as a sort of birthday toast, Taylor points out their 25-year musical history and professes his love for his friend and bandmate (as well as hyping Hirsch “incredible” solo album.) (Editors note: it is pretty incredible and has a very Hiss vibe, so check it out if you haven’t.)
Soul and groove master in-his-own-right, former Megafaun/DeYarmond Edison/Gayngs member, and creator of this author’s second favorite album of 2015, Phil Cook has been a part of the HGM crew for a few years now and his presence is robustly felt in this lovely live set. The whole band is cookin’ here, letting their freak flag fly a little bit while at the same time, often taking the bpm’s down a few notches and letting themselves settle way down deep into the groove.
Perhaps the best part of the album, however, is the very end of the title – “Vol. 1”.
Parker’s Picks Vol. 1: Live at The Parish, Austin, TX 10/18/2016 is available at the Hiss Golden Messenger bandcamp, free of charge.