Hiss Golden Messenger, the work of songwriter/guitarist M. C. Taylor and multi-instrumentalist and recording engineer Scott Hirsch, offer a bracingly honest portrayal of modern folklore on their fifth studio album Lateness of Dancers. Following 2013′s spectral, ominous Haw, Hiss Golden Messenger’s Merge Records debut trades those haunting spirits for a more grounded representation of daily life. Taylor tackles topics ranging from drinking away the workweek blues on “Saturday’s Song” to parenting tips and lessons learned on songs like “Mahogany Dread” and “Chapter & Verse.” One of Taylor’s children even introduces the tender ballad “Day O Day (A Love So Free).”
Although Taylor’s nasally singing voice and occasional disregard of rhythm and meter often elicit comparisons to Bob Dylan (and are immediately apparent on opening track “Lucia”), Hiss Golden Messenger prove they’re more than just Dylan’s disciples. Taylor and Hirsch work with Megafaun’s Phil and Brad Cook, guitarist William Tyler (who previously toured with Lambchop and Silver Jews), and Mountain Man vocalist Alexandra Sauser-Monnig to craft diverse and textured works expanding on the sparser earlier Hiss Golden Messenger recordings. The band gets swampy on tracks like “I’m a Raven (Snake Children)” and “Southern Grammar” and ironically, a country fiddle line serves as the driving force of the closing “Drum.” So while Hiss Golden Messenger’s poetic storytelling draws heavily from the folk traditions of its predecessors, Lateness of Dancers offers thematically universal stories for the present.