Most great Van Morrison records have at least one stirring saxophone moment. There’s the alto that slivers around “Slim Slow Slider,” searching for some resolution on the loose coda to Van’s Astral Weeks; the two sturdy columns of brass that penetrate Moondance’s gorgeous centerpiece, “Into the Mystic”; and the saxophone flourish, deployed punctuatively like film transitions, on the title track from Saint Dominic’s Preview. North Carolina alt-country group Hiss Golden Messenger has several of those saxophone moments. One of the best creeps in on the band’s 2011 album Poor Moon, toward the end of album opener “Blue Country Mystic”—a title Van could have written himself—when the brass trots downstage to gently tug at the curtains. They drop, and Hiss Golden Messenger re-emerges on the second track an ensemble just as bewitched by slide guitar and front-porch pickin’ as it is jazz and soul. Songwriter and frontman M.C. Taylor previously whiled away nearly a decade in the San Francisco group Court & Spark, an equally twangy but often oversanitized band with one eyeball trained self-consciously on the audience. With Hiss Golden Messenger now on its seventh release, the rangy and sleepy Haw, Taylor has scraped off Court & Spark’s too-perfect veneer. But instead of retreating forever into the mountains, he settled for a cozy valley—a place not too far from a music shop.
Hiss Golden Messenger performs with Daughn Gibson at Black Cat Backstage, 1811 14th St. NW. $12 in advance, $15 day of. blackcatdc.com. (202) 667-4527.