Hiss Golden Messenger, Bad Debt

Peter Blackstock

By Peter Blackstock

on 01.14.14 in Reviews

Bad Debt

Hiss Golden Messenger
An early, pivotal point in M.C. Taylor’s artist identity

Bad Debt was neither the first record nor the highest-profile release for Hiss Golden Messenger, but it’s clearly the pivotal point of M.C. Taylor’s artistic identity. Born from the ashes of Bay Area alt-country duo the Court & Spark, Taylor’s present endeavor — more a pseudonym than a band — strips down roots affectations to revealing essentials, especially on this 2010 collection that paved the way for the well-received 2012 and 2013 albums Poor Moon and Haw, respectively. A handful of tunes on those two discs first appeared here; tracks such as “Balthazar’s Song” and “O Little Light” were fleshed out masterfully in their later iterations, but there’s a stark beauty to how they sound on Bad Debt, rendered solo acoustic in essentially field-recording style. (Taylor simply set up a cassette recorder on his kitchen table and let the tape roll.) A fair bit has been made of the biblical imagery Taylor uses on songs such as “The Serpent Is Kind (Compared to Man)” and “Jesus Shot Me in the Head,” but this isn’t really religious music in the least; it is, however, quite personal, and deeply affecting.