Mount Moriah – Mount Moriah

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After working together at a record store in Chapel Hill in ‘05, Heather McEntire (from Bellafea) and Jenks Miller (from Horseback) formed a duo called Un Deux Trois and released an EP entitled Lovers. That endeavor, and a shared interest in Americana and folk music, led to them becoming Mount Moriah and last year they released another EP entitled The Letting Go. This time it’s a full-length, and joining them are some friends who bring along a creditable pedigree: Phil from Megafaun and Daniel from St. Vincent. The musical focus is aimed at southern roots music, more or less, but with an independent-minded attitude free of certain clichéd trappings. In other words, they don’t swim in the self-conscious pool that proclaims “Look at us, we’re playing country music in a pop music world!”

As several national music writers have remarked, they don’t really celebrate “the South” as much as deconstruct it, emotionally and musically, and they don’t sound like any other bands in the Americana camp right now, or in the slow-rock camp. They reconnect the pieces in new ways, hard as that is to do, as the songs take on some very different “voices” from one another. Heather McEntire strikes me as a female counterpart to Ryan Adams, writing and playing scruffy, unkempt songs with a wistful, sometimes aching, melancholy, and unique charm that often mirrors their creator. Indigo Girls’ Amy Ray called her “the godchild of Dolly Parton, Bjork, Sinead and someone I can’t put my finger on…” That says a lot right there. As each song lays out its part of the patchwork you’re persuaded to follow along as the multi-patterned quilt comes together.

“Social Wedding Rings” is a groovy, catchy neo-folk rocker and “Old Gowns” is a weary alt-country slo-core throwback with a bleeding violin by Daniel Hart and a stirring vocal by McEntire, but they really blow the lid off the album with the centerpiece “Lament,” a sparse, seductive and utterly irresistible song. The strangely cold and hard-as-nails lyrical resignation set against a bouncing beat, it’s two and a half minutes of near-perfection. If this song doesn’t lure you in, at least a little bit, you should check to see if you have a pulse. It’s one of the songs of the year, and something that will be blasting out of my wife’s new Camaro convertible this summer. This album sneaks up on you with an intense quietness that becomes louder with each subsequent spin.