April 22, 2024

Micah P Hinson – “Presents The Holy Strangers” – a sketched, foxed and faded serigraph from a distant time

FULL TIME HOBBY                      8th September 2017

On the evidence of this album, I don’t think Micah P Hinson takes himself too seriously. Not that he’s having a laugh. Far from it; lyrically, this travels to dark places. I think he has set out to make a sonorous and pleasingly portentous album, playing gently with the tropes of dark Americana. There’s biblical references, echoey guitar, lugubrious vocals and, to top it all, a rendition of Kumbayah, retitled as ‘Come By Here’, to round things off. He plays it all absolutely straight, as he did last time I saw him play: https://www.vanguard-online.co.uk/0810LMPH.htm.

A very enjoyable instrumental sets an easy going pace and ushers in the first lyric: “I cried until the break of dawn”. The slide weeps along and Micah’s croak walks slow. ‘Girl Of My Dreams’ shuffles along with brushes on the drums and falteringly slow guitar. Sweet and corny at the same time, this sounds like a forgotten bar band in Abilene, Texas, sixty years ago. ‘The Years Tire On’ is another instrumental with unvoiced choir and creaky, hovering fiddle. We come across a few more instrumentals as we journey on. The ambience is old and it’s no surprise to learn this album was recorded analogue on old reel to reels and old mixing desks.

Hinson says this is a folk-opera, telling the story of a family from birth through courtship to murder and suicide. I don’t quite manage to see this assembly as a story-cycle but it does hang together nicely. A song apparently about a spaceman may actually be about the arrival of a baby. It precedes another instrumental and a reading of Book One of Micah from the Old Testament. Read by Micah himself in a deep voice that is hard to picture coming from his slight frame. A touch of Van Morrison to his voice adds to the weight of the tale. Old Testament it may be, but it could as easily be the description of a lawless town in the old American West. By the time he gets to ‘The Last Song’ (not actually the last song….) he sounds rheumy and old. It’s a gentle wind-down from here to the album end.

Sparse and beautiful, Micah has painted quite a picture with this record – a sketched, foxed and faded serigraph from a distant time.

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