Mount Moriah’s music is instantly appealing. You could say the North Carolina duo make folk or country music, but considering both members have post-punk and metal backgrounds, you can’t expect them not to experiment with the genre’s sounds, nor respect the traditional lyrical guidelines. There is absolutely nothing stereotypical about them. Their eponymous debut album was released on April 12th, and features collaborations by St. Vincent, Bowerbirds, Gayngs and others.
Heather McEntire’s clear and full vocals are perfectly suited for the music they make. Her voice is expressive, heartfelt and engaging. As a songwriter, she is just as talented: her lyrics are sharp and polished, and they offer a wealth of imagery and storytelling, with a constant vein of melancholy.
The theme of this album is undoubtedly about relationships, and they sure cover a lot of terrain. Whether it is about how religion can affect a lesbian relationship (“Momma calm your nerves, it could be so much worse, If this love is the devil’s curse, I don’t want your cure”), or the liberating feeling of a great break-up song (“if this will be anything, then let it be over”), the bittersweet ending of a good relationship (“the only way to love you now is to walk away”) or the possibility of a happily-ever-after (“you have my word, and you have my trust, we’ll have more than enough”). This album has it all.
The album’s standout track, “Lament”, is captivating. As the title might suggest, it is the opposite of a love song. It is a scathing, unabashed “I don’t love you anymore” statement, and it is this boldness that makes it so great. The lyrics are concise but brutal nonetheless: “a mouthful of bees couldn’t stop me from whisperin’ “I don’t love you””. It’s a song that haunts you, but unfortunately it is over much too soon; I often find myself hitting the repeat button right after it’s finished – listening to it just once isn’t enough.
In contrast, the song “Honey We Don’t Need That Much” is a sweet and hopeful song about love and companionship with lyrics like, “Just hold me tight and hold me close; through the season I’ll watch you grow”. On this song we can hear some more straightforward Southern country rock sounds, as well as in the track ”Only Way Out”. But it is with “Social Wedding Rings” that McEntire proves her skills at storytelling. With devastating narratives, she sings about ill-fated lovers: “The next time we would meet would be a train wreck of nerves and sexless sleep (…) there is nothing gentle about our stomachs full of gin, we are alive and we have no rest”. The song is fraught with turmoil, and the delivery is flawless.
I urge you to get this record; it is already shaping up to be one of my favorite breakout albums of 2011. You can stream “Mount Moriah” on their Bandcamp page.