It's fitting that this album was chosen to be Album of the Day on Valentine's Day. Sometimes you stumble upon a band and fall so maddeningly in love with their music that waiting for a new album is akin to the sometimes painful wait for a long lost love to return home after an extended stay away. Such is my fascination with and excitement for the new full length album from North Carolina's Mount Moriah.
Mount Moriah is the brainchild of Heather McEntire and Jenks Miller (who also happens to be the mastermind behind one of my favorite metal bands in the world right now - Horseback). McEntire and Miller came together from varied muscial backgrounds to find common ground on the Americana/neo-folk/alt-country playing field. They originally released an absolutely stellar, self-titled album in 2011 that put them on a lot of radars. Fast forward two years and they've again created one of the best records this calendar year will produce.
One thing McEntire and Miller have been able to do is surround themselves with a collective of talented musicians who compliment their exceptional talents. McEntire's voice is aural honey. She wears her influences on her sleeve, channeling and culling together the likes of Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams and even a little Stevie Nicks. She's easily one of the most gifted female voices in all of Americana today and when she tells her stories the only acceptable response is to sit there, captivated by the power and emotion behind each song. (I dare you to listen to a track like "I Built A Town" and not be moved by it.)
But for as golden as McEntire's performance is, what Miller and the rest of the troops build around her is equally as stunning. They've created expansive and beautiful atmospheres - a huge, radiant canvas for McEntire to paint her pictures upon. Whether it's the retro sounding organ, the quiet pedal steel of "Union Street Bridge" or the strings that pop up on tracks such as "Miracle Temple Holiness" there are layers upon layers of sound that you just don't find on most records of this ilk. The well of influences that they draw from are varied - classic Outlaw Country (the last two minutes of "Eureka Springs" could fit perfectly on one of the first Charlie Daniels Band records), various eras of Folk, and that late 60's/early 70's Southern California sound, not to mention, artists like Gram Parsons, Neil Young, Jackson Browne and Linda Ronstadt. Simply put if you're a fan of any of these artists or genres you're going to be hard-pressed to find an album for the foreseeable future better than this one.
Miracle Temple is out February 26 on Merge Records. Mount Moriah play at Cafe Nine in New Haven, CT on March 23.