Hiss Golden Messenger


Donning a well-worn Caterpillar hat, Hiss Golden Messenger takes the stage with deck-chair strung aside as the one man band looms threateningly in-front of us.

The first song of the night is ‘Daylight’, a song off the masterful yet unfortunate Bad Debt album, which was originally destroyed in the Sony Warehouse fire in the London riots, before bursting back to life this January, three years later.

Hiss Golden Messenger violently slurs his voice and stalks the stage as if a tiger pacing in a cage. He sheds this tough persona at the song’s finish, telling us all from the microphone that he’s been living in North Carolina just trying to keep his head above water.

He then stomps into ‘Super Glue (Two days Clean)’ where the stalking returns as he recalls the stresses brought on by withdrawal symptoms.

Things take a happier turn when the gleeful ‘I’ve Got a Name for the Newborn Child’ recalls the time he stumbled upon his son Elijah’s name as he perched on a rock on Christmas day.

Before, minutes later it feels we’ve been transported to a down south knees up, as Hiss Golden Messenger asks ‘If we have any requests?’ with the barn-like backdrop of the Soup Kitchen basement completing the image. Album title track ‘Bad Debt’ then comes on request, and it is the best song of the night as Hiss Golden Messenger seems hopeful singing ‘I’m gonna live for a long, long time.’

The next songs are off upcoming album ‘Lateness of Dancers’, which is penned for a September release, and both manage the seemingly impossible balance of discussing faith, yet remaining joyful and catchy.

The late Jason Molina is covered, before Hiss Golden Messenger finds time for one of the night’s most upbeat moments covering Townes Van Zandt’s slick and disco-ready ‘Loretta’. As ‘The Serpent is Kind (Compared to Man)’ and ‘Sufferer (Love My Conquerer)’ are delivered with raw emotion, just man and guitar, a description of tonight springs to mind.

The description is lent by the sleeve notes of Gil Scott Heron’s ‘Nothing New’ which reminds us of the Oxford dictionary definition of ‘spartan’ – ‘showing indifference to comfort or luxury’. ‘Spartan’ fits tonight perfectly, it is someone performing with the ambition just to keep his head above water and it is devoid of anything that is not completely necessary, just voice and acoustic guitar.

This simplicity is stripped back even further on final song ‘Red Rose Nantahala’ which pleads “Lord let me be happy” and these words ring poignantly as we are swept up the stairs into the dusky night warmth, the song and sunlight serving to remind us of the value of simple of pleasures in a world often too complicated.

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Paddy Kinsella

Hi all, my name is Paddy and I have a love for everything from African music to indie to house (basically anything other than heavy metal). Gigging and listening to albums are genuinely the things I most value and love doing.