Hiss Golden Messenger, 'Blue Country Mystic' (Live) M.C. Taylor and his band perform one of the finest songs in Hiss Golden Messenger's growing discography, live in WAMU's studios in Washington, D.C.

Favorite Sessions

WAMU's Bandwidth Presents: Hiss Golden MessengerWAMU's Bandwidth

If you paid attention to San Francisco's indie-rock scene in the early 2000s, you probably know The Court and Spark, the twangy ensemble that borrowed its name from Joni Mitchell's landmark 1974 song and LP. The Court and Spark released a series of polished Americana records between 1999 and 2006, then disbanded, giving way to a spiritually kindred group called Hiss Golden Messenger that includes The Court and Spark's M.C. Taylor and Scott Hirsch.

Listen to Hiss Golden Messenger's 2009 debut, Country Hai East Cotton, and you'll find it sounds a lot like The Court and Spark. Actually, so do the rest of HGM's records, with their deeply Southern soul and meditative simmer. But Hiss Golden Messenger has gotten more attention than Taylor and Hirsch's old outfit, and I can only guess why. Is it because the singles sound meatier? Hooks stickier? Or is it the forces at work in the background — like Merge Records, the weighty indie that released the band's phenomenal fifth LP, Lateness of Dancers, last year?

Whatever its cause, the notice seems deserved for a gifted band that works hard to do what it loves: As I write this, Hiss Golden Messenger is in Berlin, en route to Scandinavia, then back to the States to play a string of dates through the South and Midwest. And three weeks ago the group was here in D.C., on the edge of a snowstorm, hauling a mountain of gear into WAMU's studio before it blew our hair back with two tremendous live performances.

For the quintet's Bandwidth session, it played a jaunty take on "Blue Country Mystic" — one of Taylor's best songs about fatherhood, originally released on Poor Moon — and "He Wrote the Book," which you can watch on WAMU's YouTube channel. The band played both songs with more force than may be obvious in our videos — I'm told the drums bled through three studio doors and worked their way into a DJ's live show (sorry!) — but the skill and heart that went into both songs is impossible to overlook.

Set List

  • "Blue Country Mystic"


Cameras: Peter Swinburne and Rhiannon Newman; Video Editor: Peter Swinburne; Audio Engineer: Alex Drewenskus

[+] read more[-] less

More From Rock

Rick Danko on Mountain Stage in 1989. Courtesy of Mountain Stage Archives/West Virginia Public Broadcasting hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of Mountain Stage Archives/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Rick Danko And Garth Hudson On Mountain Stage

West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The Band's bassist and vocalist and one of rock's greatest organists and keyboardists both stop by Mountain Stage in this archival session from 1989.

Rick Danko And Garth Hudson On Mountain Stage

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/776941566/777175587" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Chai plays a Tiny Desk Concert (Bob Boilen/NPR). Bob Boilen/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Bob Boilen/NPR


The group from Japan is on a mission to expand the conventional meaning of "cute." Their performance included synchronized dancing, pom-poms and matching pink uniforms, with a heavy, angular sound.

Brittany Howard plays a Tiny Desk Concert (Laura Beltran Villamizar/NPR). Laura Beltran Villamizar/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Laura Beltran Villamizar/NPR

Brittany Howard

The Alabama Shakes singer and guitarist brought an eight-piece backing band to the Tiny Desk for a set of deeply personal and affecting songs.

Charly Bliss plays a Tiny Desk Concert (Bob Boilen/NPR). Bob Boilen/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Bob Boilen/NPR

Charly Bliss

The vibrancy of the band can feel childlike and candy-coated. But the group's songs are more about the pain of entering adulthood and leaving some of that sweetness behind.

Sharon Van Etten performs during a Tiny Desk concert, on Sept. 23, 2019. (Mhari Shaw/NPR) Mhari Shaw/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Mhari Shaw/NPR

Sharon Van Etten

Nearly a decade after her first appearance at the Tiny Desk, Sharon Van Etten returns with a full band and a bigger, bolder sound.

Josh Ritter (center) performs with Amanda Shires and Jason Isbell at a Tiny Desk Concert on Aug. 27, 2019. (Emily Bogle/NPR) Emily Bogle/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Emily Bogle/NPR

Josh Ritter With Amanda Shires And Jason Isbell

In his second visit to the Tiny Desk, Josh Ritter had America on his mind. "We all have to fight against this notion that we're not all human beings."

Nilüfer Yanya plays a Tiny Desk Concert (Shuran Huang/NPR). Shuran Huang/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Shuran Huang/NPR

Nilüfer Yanya

There's a hush to the music of Nilüfer Yanya that made the Tiny Desk the perfect stage for her sound.

half•alive plays a Tiny Desk Concert on June 21, 2019 (Shuran Huang/NPR). Shuran Huang/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Shuran Huang/NPR


How does half•alive, known for funky earworms and synchronized dancing, translate to such a cozy space? Have the dancers sit.

Among Authors plays a Tiny Desk Concert on June 20, 2019 (Olivia Falcigno/NPR). Olivia Falcigno/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Olivia Falcigno/NPR

Among Authors

Among Authors' music isn't casual; there are songs within these songs, and they're not always catchy. They'll take you on a journey worth following.

David Crosby and The Lighthouse Band performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Nov. 29, 2018 (Cameron Pollack/NPR). Cameron Pollack/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Cameron Pollack/NPR

David Crosby & The Lighthouse Band

David Crosby, Becca Stevens, Michelle Willis and Michael League are The Lighthouse Band, and together they harmonized the heck out of the Tiny Desk.

Back To Top