I'm sure it will be relayed in just about every review written for his release, but the story of Micah P. Hinson thusfar is just too interesting to pass up (and it actually figures quite prominently into the creation of his debut album). Raised in a fundamentalist Christian household, Hinson found himself a member of the local music scene in Abilene, Texas. It was here where he met his muse, a former Vogue cover model who also happened to be the widow of a fairly prominent musician. After falling under the spell of this muse, Hinson slid into a life of drug and alcohol abuse, only to be arrested for forging prescriptions and thrown in county jail for a stint.
At the ripe old age of 19, he was homeless and broke, sofa-surfing with friends and working a telemarketing job while writing and recording rough structures of songs on borrowed equipment. After he'd built up about 30 tracks, some old friends in a band teamed up with him and recorded a slew of tracks in earnest, and the result is And The Gospel Of Progress. As one might guess, the album is considerably more world-weary sounding than one would usually hear from a 22 year old. Not only that, but it's one of the most assured debuts that I've heard in this genre in some time.
Thirteen tracks run just over fifty minutes and the variety of instrumentation and songwriting on the album is quite impressive. "Close Your Eyes" opens the release with a quiet lament backed with harmonium, acoustic guitars, bells, and backup female vocals. It reminds me a bit of country-tinged work by Sparklehorse, and the release takes even more solid steps with pace-quickening "Beneath The Rose" (which includes piano, accordion, slide guitar, and other instrumentation) before drifting into what might be the best track on the album in "Don't You (Part 1 & 2)." Starting out with only acoustic guitar and vocals by Hinson, the track builds and builds over the course of six minutes, closing with a rollicking finale that bursts free of the more weary opening half and gives the album its first light touch.
While the songs themselves are strong nearly throughout, the instrumentation (which can partially be credited to his friends The Earlies) and arrangements really add to the solidity of the release. Tracks takes unexpected turns (the acoustic guitar to jangling psychedelic folk of "At Last, Our Promises" is a definite standout) and despite a really nice level of production, the release isn't too polished sounding (which only adds to the power of tracks like the raw "Patience," which builds to a huge swirl of piano, skronky organs, and feedbacked guitars while Hinson howls away). If you were a bit let down by the last Bright Eyes album (as I was), this is a release that should get you excited again.