Music: The Soundtrack of the New South

Mount Moriah occupy a unique space in American music, similar in many ways to where Johnny Cash was with his American Recordings series of records at the end of his life, operating with elements of country, folk rock, and indie rock to create a music all their own. And on Miracle Temple, the follow up to their self-titled debut, Mount Moriah continues to write songs which are rich and expansive, full of soul and swagger. Miracle Temple is a more fully produced album, but the elevated production only enhances their sound, making it bigger, rather than sapping it of the essential strength which coursed thru the grooves of their first record. Singer Heather McEntire has one of the best voices in music right now, a rich soulful sounding voice with lots of steel, a classic country voice. On songs like "Eureka Springs", you can feel the full force of her vocals even tho its quiet tones are dominant, soaring slightly as needed. But Mount Moriah is more than just one person, and on Miracle Temple the guitars share the stage with equal vibrancy.  Jenks Miller's guitar is the perfect compliment to McEntire's voice, and the intertwined play between them is what drives the songs on Miracle Temple (along with the incredible rhythm section of drummer James Wallace and bassist Casey Toll), with songs like "Connecticut To Carolina" a great example of how they accent the other. If forced to pick, I would put "Younger Days", "Swannanoa" and "Union Street Bridge" at the top of the list as favorite songs, with "Union Street Bridge" being the song from this this album most illustrative of Mount Moriah's place in the lexicon of American Music ("Lament" from their first album occupies a similar place for me): it's a soulful country sound mixed with lyrics that are well above contemporary country music dross, with evocative lines such as the chorus, "there is no more machine of the mind, there is only what we came here to hide", which will ensure that we can expect Mount Moriah to never get an invite to the Grand Ol' Opry, if only because such a failure by Nashville to embrace music which enriches what country music can be is nothing new and symptomatic of all that is wrong (and has been for some time) with the country music establishment. Not that I presume Mount Moriah would even be interested in performing in what is now more a wax museum than epicenter of American music, or at least I like to think they would not, but such things are off point. The real point is Mount Moriah are making great music and Miracle Temple is a brilliant record.

Mount Moriah (photo by Andrew Synowiez)

Mount Moriah (photo by Andrew Synowiez)

Miracle Temple by Mount Moriah is out now from Merge Records.

A digital download was provided for review.