HISS GOLDEN MESSENGER – ” Forward Children ” A fundraiser for Durham Public Schools

Posted: June 28, 2020 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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When M.C. Taylor moved to North Carolina more than a dozen years ago now, Hiss Golden Messenger was his private enterprise, an outlet for the curious songs he composed quietly at his kitchen table in the country. But soon after Taylor and his budding family moved to a modest home nestled back from busy roads in the gentle Durham hills, he began building a network of local aces, all sympathetic to songs that documented his quest to be a better human being. Hiss Golden Messenger became and remain a community endeavor, an indelible part of North Carolina’s historic and contemporary musical fabric. The 15 songs of Forward, Children: A fundraiser for Durham Public Schools students are an instant illustration of that decade-long arc, a one-night snapshot of Hiss Golden Messenger’s metamorphosis from solitary songwriter fare to full-band jubilee.

Just days into 2020, the quintet—well-rested from a holiday respite after a busy 2019 that included some 60 shows across the United States and the release of the gripping Terms of Surrender—loaded into their home region’s legendary hub, Cat’s Cradle, for a two-night stand. For nearly 90 minutes, they smoke, sorting through the greatest hits of the Hiss Golden Messenger songbook with the intuition of a band that accepts these tunes as gospel but plays them with the verve of five folks delighted to be back on the same stage.

Lifted by trombone and organ, “Highland Grace” sounds here like a prayer for the salvation of love. Buttressed by bounding piano, “Saturday’s Song” feels like a relief anthem for these fraught times, a beaming reminder of celebration and communion. Drifting and then roaring, “When the Wall Comes Down” is an urgent reminder that catastrophe and humanity know no arbitrary borders, that we are all forever bound to one another. During “Jesus Shot Me in the Head,” they unravel into a cleansing 12-minute upheaval, the sound of self-doubt looking for the relief of resolution—and finding it, at last.


The son of two teachers, Taylor taught for a spell at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, arguably the nation’s first public university, after finishing his graduate degree there, joining one of the country’s proudest educational lineages. His wife, Abby, is now an ESL instructor in Durham, and his children, Elijah and Ione, are in the fifth and first grades there, respectively. In mid-March, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Durham Public Schools closed like most others nationwide, at least through mid-May. The necessary move means that many children throughout the school system don’t know where they’ll get their next meal, a profound failure of our social safety network but a profound opportunity for our collective help. All profits from Forward, Children will benefit the Durham Public Schools Foundation. “It’s my duty as a dad of students and the spouse of a teacher,” Taylor says, “to give what I can.”

Forward, Children is not just the sound of a great band at work, which it surely is. And it is not just the sound of the community that helped create Hiss Golden Messenger coming together to hear what it’s made in a homecoming of hundreds. It is, all told, the sound of communion, blessedly preserved to tape for times like these, when we need any communion we can get. One of the best American bands out there right now.

Released March 27th, 2020
The Band:
M.C. TAYLOR — Guitars & Singing
PHIL COOK — Keys, Guitars & Singing
ALEX BINGHAM — Bass Guitar & Singing
AL SMITH — Drums & Percussion
EVAN RINGEL — Trombone
BILLIE FEATHER — TambourineMany thanks to all who generously helped in the creation of this album, including Luc Suer, Chris Boerner, Brent Lambert at The Kitchen, Merge Records, the venerable Cat’s Cradle, Grayson Haver Currin, and Darryl Norsen. Love to the amazing Hiss crew for keeping the literal and figurative wheels on the bus: Jocelyn Romo, Ellowyn Kane, Carly Bingham and Billie Feather. Thanks to Brian Schwartz, Rachel Miller, and the whole 7S family, and to Adam Voith.
Hiss Golden Messenger is proud to support the Durham Public Schools Foundation.
All proceeds from this album support students in the Durham Public Schools system.

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