The American South is changing, whether it wants to or not. Old ideas and mediums are being gradually pushed aside for more sensible ones, both in politics and culture. Mount Moriah frontwoman Heather McEntire is fascinated by these changes and how they’re affecting her home. As a poet and writer, McEntire turns her observations into prose and then adds a melody and chords (the North Carolina trio’s debut LP consisted of McEntire’s old, unused poems set to country rock). On sophomore album, Miracle Temple, her literary approach to lyricism remains, though her focus is more defined — southerners v. post-modernism — and her songwriting more meticulous.
McEntire’s scene-setting phrases (“dancing shoes”, “black water river”, “cobblestone streets”) depict a relatable world. On opener “Younger Days”, she addresses a friend who’s gone and left their small town: “Big city lives really gotta be a drag / August is over, so when are you coming back?” Her accent sounds like Dolly Parton; her guitar jangles and twangs, notes flowing into one another. Highlight “I Built a Town” is a tale of blue-collar romanticism in the vein of Whiskeytown and a remarkable vocal performance from McEntire. She’s made considerable strides as a singer since Mount Moriah’s debut, which she credits to learning how to treat her “voice as an instrument”.
Miracle Temple is a record of mood — and a downbeat mood at that. Mount Moriah exercise extreme restraint in their arrangements, with muted guitars, minor keys, and minimalistic rhythms. They don’t sensationalize anything sonically or lyrically; one might even argue that Miracle Temple is too restrained (“Miracle Temple Holiness” is the only thing resembling a rock song). But no matter how soft and elegant the music, McEntire and Mount Moriah are illustrating the gritty reality of the “New South” without the bias of the past. They’re exactly what country music needs.
Essential Tracks: “Younger Days”, “I Built a Town”