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Scott Hirsch - Lost Time Behind the Moon Music Album Reviews

After decades of wandering, the former Court & Spark and Hiss Golden Messenger member follows his wanderlust West again, where he puts down new roots for his soulful folk-rock sound.

Scott Hirsch’s long musical journey has come full circle. Back in the 1990s he and M.C. Taylor started making music together in the Southern California hardcore act Ex-Ignota, then traipsed up to San Francisco to start a band called the Court & Spark, whose change of musical style was signaled by the fact that they borrowed their name from one of Joni Mitchell’s most popular albums. Upon moving to North Carolina in the late 2000s, the duo made music as Hiss Golden Messenger, with Taylor the singer and chief songwriter and Hirsch a multi-instrumentalist, arranger, and producer. Following a brief sojourn in Brooklyn, Hirsch moved back to the West Coast in 2016, settling not too far from where he and Taylor first started making music together.

That transitory life, along with the general travails of any touring musician, provided grist for Hirsch’s solo debut, Blue Rider Songs, released in 2016. Moving about the country was his primary subject, both lyrically and musically: He wrote movingly about emotional and geographic transience, and he borrowed from an array of country and R&B sources to create an easygoing yet endlessly inventive and deeply soulful folk-rock sound. A picaresque through the American landscape, Blue Rider Songs gave in to the romantic lure of the open highway, even if it never settled on any one particular destination. By contrast, his follow-up, Lost Time Behind the Moon, is about the lure of home, equally powerful even if it’s harder to romanticize. “I’m going back to California, where the grass grows so high,” he sings on “No No,” as his makeshift band churns out a murky groove that sounds unstable and slippery, like the Golden State coastline itself. “When I get back to my baby, there’ll be no more coming down.”

Featuring contributions from William Tyler and members of Wilco, America, and Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Lost Time Behind the Moon has a destination in mind: “Aim to the West,” goes “When You Were Old (El Dorado),” which sounds like a vintage Al Green track as it steadily makes its way to that lost city of gold. But that doesn’t mean he’s not taking backroads and scenic routes. If that song lingers outside Hi Records in Memphis, “Spirits” wanders around Big Sur, “Valley of the Moon” stargazes from somewhere in the Mojave, and “Pink Moment” might as well be on the moon for all its spacey pedal steel. Perhaps even more than on Blue Rider Songs, Hirsch manages to corral all of these disparate sounds into a coherent and compelling whole, to stake his claim to this particular musical territory. There are still the expected nods to Joni Mitchell and Neil Young and JJ Cale, all of whom have informed his music in the past, but on Lost Time Behind the Moon, they sound less like spiritual guides and more like people who gave him directions to the next town.

These songs suggest that Hirsch has reached a destination, at least with his music: that he has arrived at a place where he is able to harness these sounds and allusions to convey the particulars of his wanderlust. There’s a new confidence here, even in the way he deploys those backing vocals, a ’70s staple transformed into something like a Greek chorus on “Long Lost Time.” “If I come back, won’t you let me stay?” he asks, as a gently strummed guitar and a simple drum pattern coalesce into a stately folk-rock processional. It sounds like whenever Hirsch gets there, it’ll be the end of one journey and—fortunately for his listeners—the beginning of another.

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