The North Carolina-based country rockers lead the listener on a lyrical quest for enlightenment, which finds magic in surprising places
Mount Moriah describe their third album, How To Dance, as “a devotion to the cosmic light itself: moving towards it, moving into it.” Yet what strikes you on first listen as a meandering river whose bed shimmers with gemstones slowly reveals itself to be a dusty path through life in small-town America, and somehow this makes the band’s quest seem even more magical.
The search for enlightenment begins with Calvander and finds Heather McEntire with a “Blue heart and a dark mind, looking for any kind, some kind of sign.” Sometimes the place names themselves provide the intrigue, as on Higher Mind: “Walk me up to Grizzly Peak, take me down to Baker Beach / Ride me ’round Okefenokee, lead me into Chautauqua’s teeth.” As ever, it’s the subtle details which bring the album’s characters to life, on tracks like Little Bear – “Standing there in your underwear, drying dishes with a stockings pair” – and Davis Square – “In a navy coat that swallowed you whole, you found your way down I-95.”
Musically, it’s an album of slouchy country-rock. McEntire’s dexterous voice remains the focus throughout, with her two bandmates and the other accompanying musicians (including Angel Olsen) always respectful of their supporting role. This dynamic creates some magical interplay between McEntire and the guitar of Jenks Miller, particularly on Chiron (God In The Brier), as he shadows the vocals and manages to breathe extra life into them.
There are many reasons to enjoy the album; the music, the references to local folklore, the palpable sense of place and, when considered all together, they make a compelling case for How To Dance being one of the records of the year to date.
Verdict: The cosmic reveals itself in the commonplace