North Carolina-based alt-country rockers Mount Moriah released their third album, How to Dance, on Merge Records recently. The record doesn’t deviate much from what has, at this point, become their well-established sound, but it serves to solidify their position as one of the strongest , most consistent new bands to appear in the genre in a long time. On Friday night, the band brought their Southern Gothic stylings to the Rock and Roll Hotel.
The band started the set with the opening track and first single from the new album, “Calvander,” a song that is likely to remain central to the Mount Moriah canon for many years to come. “Bright Light,” a track that inhabited a similarly central position in the band’s 2013 album, Miracle Temple, followed this immediately. Both songs are prime examples of singer and guitarist Heather McIntire’s literary lyrical style, seeming to encapsulate entire stories in their three-minute-or-so run times.
McIntire let the songs speak mostly for themselves, offering little commentary between them, but several years of touring since the band last appeared on the Rock and Roll Hotel stage have noticeably built up her confidence as a live performer. Back in 2013 she had selected a spot off to stage right nearly out of the stage lights in the shadows. This time, she took to center stage and put on a much more energetic performance, flanked on her right by guitarist Jenks Miller and on her left by bassist Casey Toll. That additional energy came through in the songs as well, serving to add urgency to her lyrics and the dilemmas of the many characters that inhabit them. Mount Moriah is a band poised to break through to the next level.
The set balanced new material fairly evenly with the old, mixing in well-known fan favorites like “Eureka Springs,” “Social Wedding Rings,” and “I Built a Town” with equally strong new songs like “Baby Blue,” “Precita,” and “Cardinal Cross.” If there was one downer to the night, it was that the band’s somewhat short eleven-song setlist flew by too fast. The band returned to the stage for one final song, “Lament” from their 2011 self-titled debut.
Singer-songwriter Skylar Gudasz, also from North Carolina, opened the show supporting the release of her recent album, Oleander.