Hiss Golden Messenger Hides the Musical Medicine

MC Taylor and Scott Hirsch are the country-rock duo Hiss Golden Messenger. The pair are on tour to support their fifth album, "Lateness of Dancers," which came out this month. We asked MC to DJ our dinner party.

Hey there. This is MC Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger, and this is my dinner party soundtrack.

Gal Costa, “India”

The first song that I would play is Gal Costa’s “India.” “India” is a very elegant, romantic kind of record, sort of smoky. That really appeals to me. You know, one part of it is that she’s singing in a different language. In a way, that forces me to pay more attention to the arrangement and the instrumentation — that the arrangement of this particular song is incredibly lush. There’s a lot of strings. I mean, I’ve always been attracted to stuff like Duke Ellington, that is not necessarily classical, but obviously trained and very complex.

Something that people should know — and people that know me already know this — is that I’m kind of an introverted person, and I’m not ashamed of that. So when I think about soundtracking a party, I’m thinking about playing music for a very small group of people in an intimate setting. It’s a party of people I’m very close with, that are OK with being quiet.

Phyllis Dillon, “Midnight Confessions”

So, at this point at this party, maybe the kids have been put to bed, and we’re in the gloaming, and this is a good time to get into a little Phyllis Dillon.

Phyllis Dillon is one of the great vocalists of Jamaican rocksteady music, at least to my ears. We’re listening to a tune called “Midnight Confessions.”  I love everything about this tune: I love the production of it, I love the kind of stepping rhythm that was a precursor to what we think of as reggae music now. I love the slow tempo that doesn’t feel slow.

Phyllis Dillon’s music is music that my wife Abby and I have listened to a lot over the years, and it’s always something that we put on at a gathering of friends.

Dion DiMucci, “Only You Know”

This last song that I would play is kind of an important one for this party. It’s a tune called Only You Know by Dion DiMucci.

Dion is known for being the front boy for Dion and the Belmonts, and had huge hits with “The Wanderer” and “A Teenager in Love.”  But he sort of battled a heroin addiction when he wasn’t making hit records throughout the ’60s, and kind of reinvented himself and made this record in 1975 with Phil Spector, that he now disowns as “funeral music.”  But to me, this is one of the most deeply moving and personal records. His singing is just otherworldly.

There’s a certain lushness to this recording that suits a late night gathering of people. Also, honestly, anyone who has even a passing knowledge of who Dion is?  It’s fun to surprise them with this recording.

Hiss Golden Messenger, “Mahogany Dread”

If I were forced to play my own music at this dinner party, I think I would probably play a tune called “Mahogany Dread.”

To me, “Mahogany Dread” is one of the lyrical lynchpins of this album. There’s a line in this song that goes, “The misery of love is a funny thing/The more it hurts, the more you think you can stand a little pain.”

I dunno — I guess it’s not really a party song!  I mean, I don’t know, there’s a certain groove to it. Maybe the rhythm of a Hiss Golden Messenger song is kind of like the Trojan Horse; you hide the lyrical medicine in the bass and drum parts.