This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to see Hiss Golden Messenger, whose latest album Lateness of Dancers is perhaps one of my favorite albums of 2014.
Opening the show was Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, who I saw perform seven days prior at Hopscotch to an attentive audience at Fletcher Theatre. Opening a cappella with “Maria’s Gone,” a song made famous by Jean Ritchie, Sauser-Monnig had the audience at full attention like a mountain storyteller telling tales of bygone days. One of my favorite tunes she played at Hopscotch also made the Cat’s Cradle setlist, Eddy Arnold’s “Cattle Call,” a song about driving the western ranges. Her quiet, folksy rendition could put you out in the old west as much as Arnold’s original.
The second opener was a Philly folk-rock band, Strand of Oaks, who I had heard of on the radio back home in NJ, but hadn’t delved too much into their music until seeing their show. The project of singer-songwriter, Timothy Showalter, there was plenty of guitar shredding and drum breaks to be had, which took the audience from captivated listeners to really active participants, with people in the crowd dancing and head bobbing from the front to the back of the venue.
The two openers really got the crowd pumped for Hiss Golden Messenger’s homecoming concert. When M.C. Taylor and his band started, they had the whole crowd moving from the gate with “Red Rose Nantahala” and moved right into “Saturday’s Song” from Lateness of Dancers. Towards the middle of the set, Sauser-Monnig came out to join in with “Day O Day,” along with a number of other tunes from the latest album. The whole band, consisting of Scott Hirsch on bass, Matt McCaughan on drums, William Tyler on guitar, Terry Lonergan on sax and guitar, and Phil Cook on keys, guitar, and banjo, put on an awesome show as they played though songs from Hiss Golden Messenger’s different albums. Phil Cook played a stellar, Duane Allman-esque, slide guitar solo on “Lucia” to wrap things up, at least before the encore.They came back out and finished with two songs, the final being a hard rocking, sax heavy rendition of “Call Him Daylight”, quite different then the acoustic rendition I was familiar with from WKNC’s Lounge session.
From what I had heard of Hiss Golden Messenger’s shows in the past, they are never to be missed and always excellent, and I can finally confirm those words are indeed the truth.