I really wanted to take pictures of this show while Mike Taylor was playing music, but it was too quiet at One Longfellow Square. That is to say, while the room was absolutely full, the noise from the camera shutter would have been wholly audible, because everyone was listening so intently. It was great. Through two sets that spanned the entire Hiss Golden Messenger catalogue, including several new songs from the recently announced album Hallelujah Anyhow (Merge Records, September 22), this was another gem in what has become a tradition of solo shows at one of New England’s best listening rooms.
The first set was a balance of new songs, tunes from Heart Like a Levee, released last fall, and Bad Debt, the album recorded at Taylor’s kitchen table in 2009. Taylor commented that he was playing some of the songs for the first time in a while. These shows at OLS have become places where he can dig deep into the back catalogue and stretch out new work; last night, he pulled out “Bad Debt” and “Balthazar’s Song,” back-to-back in the first set and I heard people saying ‘yes,’ and clapping with appreciation at the start of the songs.
Because of the attentiveness of the audience, he was able to use his vocals to subtly accentuate the songs, preaching and hollering one moment and whispering the next. In the second set, “Cracked Windshield,” a song he connected to the memory of his late friend Jason Molina, was damn near perfect, and when the song ended there was a beat or two of silent, unanimous appreciation before any applause. The HGM standard “Call Him Daylight” was another diamond, with Taylor’s precise guitar picking driving the intense rhythm of the song.
You can pre-order Hallelujah Anyhow here.