Posted by Susan Darlington.
Reviewed on 12th December 2016.
Live at Brudenell Social Club on Friday, 4th November 2016
According to Hiss Golden Messenger's MC Taylor, a woman sat with her fingers in her ears throughout last night's entire set.
There are times tonight when it's possible to empathise with her.
The North Carolina songwriter, joined by a four-piece backing band, usually keeps his arrangements tight on albums that are seeped in the 70's Americana of The Band and Neil Young.
Live, however, Southern country tracks such as 'Happy Day (Sister My Sister)' and 'Saturday's Song' become loose with extended instrumental passages. These have a shuffling, easy pace that all too frequently makes them drift into the preserve of AM radio aficionados and musos.
This latter is an impression that Taylor's habit of swapping guitars after nearly every track does little to abate.
More crucially than that, however, is that the band's more nuanced influences often get lost in the new arrangements. This means that, while putting your fingers in your ears may be a slight over-reaction, it's not until their laid-back roots music becomes more focused that the set really comes alive.
Their encore of 'Brother, Do You Know The Road?', for instance, swells with a warm soulfulness while 'Heart Like A Levee', the title track of their sixth album, takes energy from the band's backing vocals. 'Call Him Daylight', meanwhile, strips out the percussion with the addition of a banjo for a more traditional roots vibe.
It's moments such as these that the band's music becomes reassuringly familiar and worth listening to fingers free.