Friday, August 08, 2008
Micah P. Hinson and the Red Empire Orchestra
The problem with creating an amazing debut album is that your subsequent work is always going to be held up against that first masterwork. Many artists have been in this position, and Micah P. Hinson is one of them. Mind you, his 'debut' album wasn't technically his first, though it was the first to get released. Micah P. Hinson and the Gospel of Progress was a gutsy, rocking soulful triumph, which set a very high standard for all its successors.
Though his next album The Opera Circuit was good, it may have been unfavourably compared with its predecessor. But the arrival of Micah's new album The Red Empire Orchestra heralds an exciting new chapter in his canon. He's in a different place now to the one which led to the anguished screams on The Opera Circuit. His lyrics and music may still be loaded with melancholy, but there's a lighter touch. There are positive, almost lovelorn lyrics which perhaps reflect his current happier and recently-married state, and there are plenty of strings. Sure, he's had strings on his records before, but they're so much more noticeable here - at times you could even describe the album as lush.
There's also a certain swagger and at least a couple of songs sound like a gruffer, American Richard Hawley. Other songs just ache with beauty. Then, just to show us that he doesn't need any embellishment to write a great tune, we have just Micah's glorious lived-in voice and quiet accompanying acoustic guitar on The Fire Came Up to My Knees. I'm not sure yet that Red Empire is up to the heights of his debut, but each listen reveals more brilliance and it's already clear that we have a classic in the making. And two albums of the year contenders this week already is pretty good going.
Here's my current favourite track off the album, plus three songs Micah did for a recent Marc Riley BBC 6 Music live session, with added banjo action and including a new, unreleased tune.
mp3: Micah P. Hinson - Sunrise Over the Olympus Mons
mp3: Micah P. Hinson - When We Embraced (live on BBC 6Music)
mp3: Micah P. Hinson - There's Only One Name (live on BBC 6Music)
mp3: Micah P. Hinson - Tell Me It Ain't So (live on BBC 6Music)
Buy The Red Empire Orchestra from Rough Trade (they have a special book-bound CD edition with two bonus tracks at the moment).