Hiss Golden Messenger are back with their first new song since 2019, “Sanctuary”.
Written and produced by bandleader M.C. Taylor, “Sanctuary” isn’t exactly a political track, though it does engage with the national mood. “Feeling bad, feeling blue,” Taylor begins, “Can’t get out of my own mind/ but I know how to sing about it.” There’s a tension in the song between uplifting music and lyrical pessimism. At the chorus, backup singers join Taylor, and you might mistake the song for a sunny anthem if you didn’t listen to the words: “You want good news/ You want sanctuary/ But when you try to get real/
They break you on the wheel.”
In a statement, Taylor explained how the song came together and paid homage to John Prine, writing,
“Over the past year, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we care for ourselves and each other, and how hard it is to live truthfully in a world that is so tangled. ‘We sell the world to buy fire, our way lighted by burning men,’ says the poet Wendell Berry. The song ‘Sanctuary’ is one small piece of my own personal reckoning with what it feels like to search for some kind of shelter in the storm. Fare thee well, John Prine, AKA Handsome Johnny, a speaker of truth if ever there was one.”
“Sanctuary” comes with a music video directed by Saleem Reshamwala. It’s shot in pastoral woods and fields, and features fresh-faced youths lip-synching along to the words. Taylor appears in front of an American flag, and in the process he brings the political subtext to the forefront. Watch for yourself below.
“Sanctuary” is the band’s first song since Terms of Surrender, which is up for the Grammy for Best Americana Album. Last summer, they covered “Travellin’ in Style” by Free for a charity album benefiting the North Carolina venue Cat’s Cradle.