From the opening notes of Bad Debt, one can tell that Hiss Golden Messenger’s M.C. Taylor is a man who has the uncanny ability to put his heart into a song. While Taylor has received wide acclaim for his most recent albums Haw and Poor Moon, Bad Debt takes listeners all the way back to 2010. Four years ago, Taylor holed up in his kitchen deep in Pittsboro, N.C., recording songs of faith, heartache, desperation and unequivocal optimism to a portable cassette recorder. The album received a limited CD release but was swiftly cut short after the London riots laid waste to the warehouse the record was stored in. Now, three years after the album’s untimely demise, Paradise of Bachelors, Hiss Golden Messenger’s current label, has re-issued Bad Debt with three new tracks. While half of Bad Debt’s tracks can be found on the aforementioned albums in a much more ornate setting, Bad Debt chronicles the rudimentary beginnings of this decorated songwriter.
Recorded amidst the global financial crisis with Taylor’s one-year old son sleeping in the next room, Bad Debt is steeped in a complicated array of emotions. Existential pondering and desperate shouts to the lord give the album a heavy weight, but each track feels as if the narrator remains cautiously in the light—aware of our fleeting mortality yet hopeful for tomorrow. On “The Serpent Is Kind (Compared To Man)” Taylor begs for the rain to “come on” for “behind comes the sun.” This music feels like a heart-to-heart conversation with a dear friend, especially when it’s as instrumentally sparse as Bad Debt is. Bad Debt is filled with earnest musings of a man baring his soul to anyone willing to listen, and those who do will surely get an earful.
Whether Taylor is speaking of the fear that comes with being a new father or the bleary-eyed woes of a man raveled in his own frustrations of faith, it all comes pouring out with a refreshing sense of honesty. Whether you’re bouncing along with the brisk and cheerful rhythm behind “Drum” or stopped in your tracks by the sobering “Jesus Shot Me In The Head,” Hiss Golden Messenger will dig deep into the core of you and rattle your bones. But it’s not all about fire and brimstone or religious ramblings; this music is just fundamentally phenomenal. Few songwriters can make songs as dynamic as those on Bad Debt with just an acoustic guitar, but Taylor seems to do so with ease. Whether you’re honing in on the brilliant lyricism or simply soaking in the aural wonders of this minimalistic folk album, there’s plenty to fall in love with about Bad Debt.