Describing the Durham based Hiss Golden Messenger is like trying to grasp a forgotten word: It’s always on the tip of your tongue, but hard to speak. Songwriter and bandleader M.C. Taylor’s music is at once familiar, yet impossible to categorize: Elements from the American songbook the steady, churning acoustic guitar and mandolin, the gospel emotion, the eerie steel guitar tracings, the bobbing and weaving organ and electric piano provide the bedrock for Taylor’s existential ruminations about parenthood, joy, hope, and loneliness. And then there’s an indescribable spirit and movement: Hiss Golden Messenger’s music grooves. There’s nothing else quite like it. For over ten years, Taylor has spearheaded this prolific, perpetually evolving group. He’s toured and recorded relentlessly, earning devotees along the roads, deep in festival pits, and across the seas.
This raw emotion is especially apparent on Hiss Golden Messenger’s new album, Terms of Surrender. Terms follows Taylor’s journey through a tumultuous year of trauma and psychological darkness, hoping and working towards redemption and healing, and the conflicting draw of home and movement. “Another year older,” Taylor sings on album opener “I Need a Teacher.” “Debt slightly deeper. Paycheck smaller. Goddamn, I need a teacher.”