“Hallelujah Anyhow” is the newest album release from artist Hiss Golden Messenger. The album features warm brass and heavy use of the piano and draws inspiration from classic rhythm & blues sounds.
The album opens with “Jenny of the Roses.” The quick tempo of the piano gives the song a lighthearted sound while the more somber lyrics add contrast. Vocalist M.C. Taylor sings about change and losing touch with a loved one. Quoting the lover, Jenny, Taylor sings, “I’m gonna be a free-roving dancer,” from which he then moves back to his perspective, “Yes, I followed you, baby.” The action changes in the chorus to “Let me follow you down.” This shift from “followed” to “let me follow” alters the perception of the relationship – the two lovers are no longer connected. Sonically the song follows the display Jenny, who is the subject of the song, puts on. The overarching lyrical story follows the perceptions of the singer to reveal greater internal conflict. “I’ve never been afraid of the darkness. It’s just a different kind of light,” Taylor sings quoting Jenny. Then he addresses her singing, “Were you trying to tell me something?” The shape of the song thus emulates Jenny’s mind and speech – outwardly lighthearted, but when more closely investigated the darker parts peer through.
“Gulfport You’ve Been on My Mind” appears halfway through the album and has a loose, guitar-led sound. The song opens with just an acoustic guitar, after which other instruments fill in. Gulfport is a city in Mississippi and this song reflects the delta blues influence in its use of brass and harmonica. This track is also one of the songs that reflects to another point in the album. Gulfport is mentioned again two songs later on “Domino (Time Will Tell)” in the lyric “Old Lady Luck on the Gulfport side.” The references this album makes to itself holds it together as a cohesive piece.
The final song on the album, “When the Wall Comes Down,” is also the song that epitomizes the album’s message. As the album title suggests, both in spite and because of hardships, one must sing “Hallelujah Anyway” and appreciate the good that does exist. The lyric “Step back, Jack, from the darkness,” stands out not just on this song, but on the album because of its snapping, harsh syllables in the first half of the phrase. They draw attention to themselves, and while attention is still focused on the lyrics the message slips in – to stay out of the darkness and remain in the light. In some ways then this closing song is the antithesis of the opening song “Jenny of the Roses,” or at least of Jenny’s perspective which frames darkness as just “a different kind of light.” Emphasizing this link are the lyrics of the two songs. In “Jenny of the Roses,” the line “That day at the wall,” connects to the title of the final song. Additionally, the line “Turn your chains to roses, child,” in “When the Wall Comes Down” reflects back to Jenny’s title: Jenny of the Roses. Yet the line most representative of the album is the very last: “But while I’m here I’m gonna sing just like a songbird.” This line is essentially the thesis of the album, and perhaps also Taylor’s perspective of his life and purpose as a musician.
Hiss Golden Messenger’s album “Hallelujah Anyhow” reflects on the darkness of life and calls upon one to be grateful anyway – to say “Hallelujah.” The album draws upon the sounds of folk music and rhythm and blues to craft a soothing, but engaging sound.