“Woke up this morning, my God I felt happy / What a strange sensation,” North Carolina-based songwriter MC Taylor sings on the sprightly ‘Shinbone’, one of the many of high points on Taylor’s latest offering under the ever-evolving Hiss Golden Messenger banner.
Jump for Joy is certainly an apt choice for title. In stark contrast to the troubled ruminations and sense of the correct order of things being reversed by regressive forces of 2021’s Quietly Blowing It, these songs come from a place where the clouds have at least temporarily lifted.
Apart from sprightly opener ‘20 Years and a Nickle’, little of Jump for Joy resembles anyone’s first dozen or so ideas of what Hiss Golden Messenger records sound like. Even when the proceedings nod towards notable forebears (the title track’s Little Feat-flavoured New Orleans swamp funk bounce), the alluring detail and disorientating aural swerves (exemplified by the seriously kosmische horn interlude on otherwise rootsy first single ‘Nu-Grape’) are immeasurably more entertaining than the dry sawdust of ‘authenticity’ that characterises much of the Americana idiom.
This is not the first time Taylor has drawn inspiration from his extensive journey as a hard-working musician, but Jump for Joy emphasises the, well, joys of making music with friends and the enduring and inexplicable pull of the really good stuff over the regrets and travails of ceaseless touring: it’s hard to think of a more compelling testament to the unyielding dedication of a true musical lifer, compelled to keep arranging chords in optimal sequences regardless of material rewards, than the propulsive chrome-plated glide of ‘Feeling Eternal’.
Since the somewhat depleted-sounding Quietly Blowing It, Taylor’s collaborated on a seriously hypnotic album of spiritual dub-jazz instrumentals (Revelators Sound System) and delivered a non-festive Christmas album (O Come All Ye Faithful) of rare grace and beauty. The extracurricular activities have obviously rejuvenated Taylor’s day job as a songwriter: from the beautifully polished countrypolitan funk of ‘I Saw The New Day’ to the bluesy harp-powered stomp of ‘Sunset on the Faders’, the material is unfailingly potent, with the highlights – the deeply moving reminiscing of now-distant first musical steps on ‘Jesus Is Bored’, the seriously infectious ‘Wondering’ – sounding like instant classics.
”Let me write just one verse / That doesn’t feel like persuasion / That doesn’t feel rehearsed / That doesn’t need explaining,” Taylor pleads on the latter. He achieves this lofty aim – any serious songwriter’s dream, surely – only a few songs later, on the deceptively simple ‘My Old Friends’, a heartfelt ode to friendship of such economy, depth and gravitas it sounds like a readymade standard. It’s the crowning glory of a remarkable return to top form from one of the most consistently compelling songwriters currently in circulation.