Artist’s Showcase: Mount Moriah
We’re beyond pleased to introduce our newest author, Alex Haas. A fellow Duke Class of 2014er, he roams campus as WXDU’s own DJ Medved (or, DJ медведь). Peep his impressive playlists here, and check out his latest local music crush below:
Download: Mount Moriah, “Lament”
I can’t think of a better first group to write about for this blog than Durham-based Mount Moriah. In a way, they’re indicative of my whole musical evolution since coming to Duke. They’re a small band, no one that would ever get played on the mainstream radio I used to listen to. They’re “country,” in their own way, that vilified genre I always associated with hokey tunes like Craig Morgan’s “Redneck Yacht Club.” In high school, I never would have given them a second glance. Now, they’re all I can think about. I’m seeing them three times in four days, two weeks from now. I went to Hopscotch, tired and with aching feet, to see them play a midnight show, and it was the best goddamn show of my life. I have a picture of lead singer Heather McEntire that I took from four feet away at that show as my phone’s background, where it will be a permanent fixture. I may be obsessed.
Irrational, however, I am not. Mount Moriah blends melodic Americana with the Triangle’s rich gospel tradition to create a tremendous musical chimera, with most of their material thus far takes on the standby genre themes of loss, pain, and regret. Everyone involved has been playing under other names – and other styles – for years, guitarist Jenk Miller as dense noise-trance Horseback, and Heather with jangly indie-pop Chapel Hill three-piece Bellafea. They influence each other beautifully, bringing Horseback’s intensity and melancholy to Bellafea’s melodies and lush vocals. McEntire’s voice can soothe as she tells you goodbye (“The Letting Go”), make your heart ache with a lilt (“Lament”), or climb to a self-pitying alcoholic howl (“Telling The Hour”). Whatever the the nuance, it draws you into an inescapable sonic experience and holds you there, in the web that Heather, Jenks, and the rest of the band spin for you out of their years of local music experience.
The next piece is the one that really inspired this post. “The Letting Go” and “Lament” are fantastic songs, beautiful songs, wonderful songs, and they’re a great way to hook the hesitant, but the song that may matter the most is this. This is Mount Moriah’s sound at its most intense, its most heartfelt. Telling the Hour starts slow, with Heather alone on guitar and voice, letting her pain echo in the silence before building in an instant and crashing over you in a wave of sound. It knocks the air out of you and sits on your chest, pushing the breath out of you with guilt and anger and distortion. The energy is palpable in this live recording, and far more so in person. Every third band talks about bearing their heart in their music, but no one embodies it like McEntire, swaying with the dense, grimy, bassy mix and howling into the mic. When I hear this song, I can’t look away. For five and a half minutes, I am powerless, trapped in the song, unable to do anything but really, truly feel.
Mount Moriah is playing October 22nd at Reynolds Theater, opening for Alexi Murdoch. They are also putting on a listening session at Pinhook on the 20th, and Heather is playing a solo show with the Rosebuds at Cat’s Cradle on the 19th. Hit me up if you’re interested. Their debut album is available on Amazon, and their fantastic live album, recorded at Local 506 in Chapel Hill, is available on their Bandcamp for less than a decent-size coffee. Both are a steal, and you should go buy them now.
Related: Download: the Summer School Mix