Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Mount Moriah guitarist Jenks Miller spends half his time in metallic Americana act Horseback, blending earthy atmosphere with unholy intensity. So listeners familiar with that band’s epic heft might be slightly taken aback by the polished, melodic and downright pretty alt-country that Miller helps to craft on Miracle Temple, Mount Moriah’s second album and first for Merge Records. With all due respect to Miller, however, it’s the pitch-perfect pipes of vocalist Heather McEntire that steal the show here. She’s a little bit Emmylou and a little bit Dolly, and her honey-coated coo lends each twangy tune just that much more character. That said, the way in which McEntire’s voice and Miller’s gorgeously ragged guitar riffs come together is simply sublime. She lends a tinge of sadness to the upbeat arrangement on leadoff track “Younger Days,” asking, “August is over, so when are you coming back?” And in “I Built a Town,” both Miller and McEntire exercise a kind of restraint that allows the longing in her lyrics to speak for itself: “I built a house behind my eyes/I sewed a veil for you to hide/I grow flowers to cut, towers to hold you high/There was nothing I could do to keep you inside.” There are moments enough to both hoist your beer and shed a lonesome teardrop throughout Miracle Temple, an album that’s overflowing with both emotion and beauty.