When: Sun., Jan. 12, 8 p.m. 2014
M.C. Taylor, the singer-songwriter behind Hiss Golden Messenger, got his start in music in California, first in the SoCal punk band Ex-Ignota and then with a Bay Area country-rock group called the Court & Spark, whose name borrowed from a Joni Mitchell album title and whose sound borrowed from Gram Parsons. He later settled along the Haw River in North Carolina’s Piedmont—an area that produced early blues greats such as Blind Boy Fuller, Blind Blake, and Josh White—where he devoted his time to the study of folkore. These days he lives in urban Durham, but his latest album, Haw (Paradise of Bachelors), draws much of its inspiration from the culture of his former rural home—“Sweet as John Hurt,” for instance, salutes another important blues singer, and on the epic “Sufferer (Love My Conquerer)” he struggles with the idea of salvation. Scott Hirsch, a Court & Spark bandmate who now lives in New York, continues to work with Taylor, coproducing and playing bass on most of Hiss Golden Messenger’s recordings, and on Haw they’re joined by a stellar cast that includes American Primitive guitarist William Tyler, Megafaun multi-instrumentalist Phil Cook, and Black Twig Pickers banjoist Nathan Bowles. The arrangements draw on a wide swath of Americana—blues, country rock, old-time styles—as well as incorporating environmental sounds, but they also have an easygoing yet sharply executed pop feel that alternately suggests a more rustic Joe Henry and a more earthbound Van Morrison. For the band’s Chicago debut, Taylor will perform solo, as he does on Bad Debt, a 2010 album (about to be reissued) that captures his music at its most skeletal. But because he’s in town to participate in a tribute to Jason Molina on Saturday at the Hideout, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of the other musicians from that event sitting in here and there. —Peter Margasak Thousand Arrows open.