Due to strong southern roots, nods to past tradition, and Heather McEntire’s gorgeously tinged vocal inflections, Mount Moriah is being hailed as country music revivalists. Their relative youth, occupancy on the eminent Merge Records roster, and previous involvement in punkish outfits, they are also critically alluded as country music for the cool crowd, a band that even the bearded and cynical can get behind and support. What they actually are is simply a hard-working band full of ambition, creativity, and a whole lot of various influences and ideas cultivated from a refined and varied musical palette of tastes. It is, after all, only the band’s second full-length, so any argument to be made about them carrying a metaphorical torch is probably foolhardy.
Here on Miracle Temple
, McEntire, guitarist Jenks Miller, bassist Casey Toll, and various other collaborators craft a solid collection of harmonious musings on time and place, the joys of familiar comforts, and fleeting memories of days gone by. Like all good country music, there’s a strong sense of geography and its’ influence on human experience. 'Haunt me down in the white sands/Haunt me ‘til I’m home,' rings out, but there is also an examining of change and the constant human quest for authenticity and identity in an evolving landscape.
Tough themes to explore, for sure, but Mount Moriah make things easy on the listener by building songs around simple and unfussy arrangements. It’s the sweet sounds of a band playing together in a backroom, away from outside crowds and pressures, simply finding a groove and riding it to completion. There’s a little Booker T, Stax-influenced soul, a little Fleetwood Mac shuffle, and even a few moments of unrestraint, such as the late-song guitar jam that fades out “Eureka Springs,” which in fact, leaves one wishing that the door to this guitar space would be left open a bit further. And then there’s McEntire’s voice. At times, gutsy and bravado-filled (“Miracle Temple Holiness”), shyly soulful (“I Built A Town”), and regionally creative (marvel at the multiple syllables added to the states’ pronunciation in “Connecticut to Carolina”). McEntire carries the album, building constant vigor and invention when the tunes may tend to sway a little too close to the vest, and adding a lived-in authenticity that all good music demands, regardless of whether it’s country, folk, or somewhere in between.