Rural Life Played Beautifully On Miracle Temple
Mount Moriah is southern, geographically, but more importantly stylistically. It’s in their name that they share with countless Baptist churches standing stoically around the region. It’s in the forlorn faces they wear in front of abandoned buildings for press photos. And it’s there sonically, in the form of crossover-friendly roots music, and it’s easy to imagine it as the output of restless creatives doing something with their time in rural America.
Two forces cooperate on their sophomore album Miracle Temple. One is the guitar work of Jenks Miller, whose resume includes Horseback, a heavy metal band that stands massive among so many monstrous bands of the U.S. south. Horseback is known to incorporate Americana sounds, anyway, and that never came across as a stretch, as the hypnotic clockwork of acoustic instruments winding the dark and religious imagery of those genres made it a believable distant cousin. In Mount Moriah, Miller’s guitar work is mostly withdrawn, like a loner’s journal set to music.
The other is the vocals and lyrics of Heather McEntire. She has a punk background but a listen to any of Mount Moriah’s songs becomes the most convincing argument that this is the kind of music she must sing. Her delivery is earnest and sweet, with a confidence that suggests she’s saying exactly what she means. That, and she so undeniably sounds like Dolly Parton.
The band claims to represent a “New South,” emblazoned in public view like a dare. Presumably this implies a more progressive attitude from a region that’s often regarded, whether it's merited or not, for being backwards on issues such as race and gender equality. Perhaps it’s also a defense of southern art and artists. An assertion that you don't have to go to a coast to find something meaningful.
Miracle Temple is out now on Merge Records.