[sic] Magazine

Mount Moriah – How To Dance

How To Dance is Mount Moriah’s third LP and it’s a little bit country. So, too, is it a little bit rock and roll. It’s a mighty religious album as well, but don’t let that put you off because it’s not too preachy with it. How To Dance is a record as much about finding yourself as it is Jesus. As much about the trio’s native North Carolina and its place in the modern world as it is about telling fire from the mountain and gazing in quiet reverence at the majesty of all cosmological creation – the latter a shared human trait if ever there were one.

The star in Mount Moriah’s crown remains lead-singer Heather McEntire and, back before she teamed up with guitarist Jenks Miller and bassist Casey Toll, she was, as is the nature of things, part of other indie and punk-rock bands. Guided today by a more soulful quiver, “Calvander” draws on those times: country-rock by way of experience. Untroubled by city life, it details small-town scrapes and pleas with a higher power, melodies unspooling leisurely to a background of soft percussion. Evocatively titled, the laid-back “Fox In The City” keeps it country too, gambolling bucolically like a new-born lamb to the sound of square-dancing violin. The same strings slow mosey with pedal steel on the lonesome title track – a reflective moment on which McEntire largely steps back to allow her band’s music do the talking.

Since 2013’s combative Miracle Temple LP upped the game, however, Mount Moriah are a punchier proposition than they may first seem. On first single “Cardinal Cross”, for example, McEntire is downright defiant amidst Miller’s driving riffs and a blaring horn section – an elemental reaction to the rare alignment of four planets the track uses as its base. “Precita” comes from the shadowier side of the tracks, too, redolent of barroom smoke and whisky, Angel Olsen guesting on vocals to help McEntire keep things on the straight and narrow.

How To Dance largely settles in though to a series of stately roots rockers that hark back to the heartland and to discerning bible-belt FMs. Mount Moriah refuse to their credit to let Him dominate, appreciating only His spiritual accompaniment instead. This is an album as comforting, then, as that allegory that follows two sets of footprints in the sand. We all need to be carried on occasion, but How To Dance in general follows a path too well trodden to truly excite or inspire. Take the track “Davis Square”. Dreamy like Mount Moriah’s S/T debut it only really comes alive when Miller introduces a brief passage of wah wah. It may be sacrilegious in an ideological sense to suggest two-stepping with the Devil often like this, but musically it may be required to set Mount Moriah apart from the flock.

~How To Dance is released March 4th 2016 via Merge.~