Conflict was the spark that ignited the songs behind Heart Like a Levee, the recent release from Hiss Golden Messenger. Like many musicians, and others that heed the call of solitary ambitions in music, art, and the written word, Hiss Golden Messenger stood on an island surrounded by responsibilities to the road and to family. The line that became a beacon for Heart Like a Levee, and created the bridge that connected the dual duties of home and stage, became ‘I was a dreamer, babe, when I set out on the road, but did I say that I could find my way home’. Appropriately, the phrase can be heard, and viewed, through “Cracked Windshield” as Hiss Golden Messenger asks if the spider webs through the glass in front of his eyes and steering wheel will ‘be the death of me’. The tune, like much of the sound that support the words on Heart Like a Levee drifts softly with Americana melodies as it glides across the album.
Hiss Golden Messenger settles in Durham, North Carolina when he can find his way home, and comfortably curls into the songs that he has dedicated his life to within Heart Like a Levee. The album offers comfort and thanks in “Happy Day (Sister My Sister”), whispers on quiet strums of “Highland Grace”, walks on assured chords and community harmonies to demand “Say It Like You Mean It”, and takes a swing with rubbery rhythms and echoed vocals for “Like a Mirror Loves a Hammer”. Hiss Golden Messenger lets his mind wander as he lies in bed on a May morning as he asks the title track to ‘sing me a river’ on a fresh strum sway that matches the spring air. Heart Like a Levee takes a deep breath to exhale the soundscape for “Smoky’s Song”, trips lightly on string-defined beats as it stomps into “Tell Her I’m Dancing”, and succumbs to the trance thrum for the advice of “As the Crow Flies” as Hiss Golden Messenger pulls into “Biloxi” to offer the story of a loner looking for a good time.