Micah P. Hinson & The Red Empire Orchestra - Micah P. Hinson & The Red Empire Orchestra

Kate Goranka Whittaker 22/07/2008

Rating: 4/5

Nothing can be more rewarding than going head first and blind into a piece of art you have no contextual knowledge of. like going to see a new movie alone in the dark without reading a single write-up. So it was that I came to find Micah P. Hinson. I was first drawn to this album by the gothic, brooding cover art - a simple sepia toned image of a torso in a black dress, veined hands lifting the skirt, above legs you can just see are spread. it was a punchy come-hither. Never having heard of Micah P. Hinson , not knowing even if the name belonged to a man or a woman, I took a peek on itunes with their handy 30 sec tasters, and within the first few tracks, just the first 10 secs of each, I knew this was an album for me.

Micah P. Hinson is a man (with a very appealing baritone), and all I can gather from the sleeve notes (which are as sparse as the artwork) is that he is a musical auteur, having written and arranged all the songs himself, as well as having conceived of the artwork, and taken the darkly sexual photographs within of the buxom ms ashley bryn gregory, to whom he has dedicated the album. the sleeve notes come sans lyrics (always a good thing) and written in a vintage typewriter style font which makes me picture the guy sat at his own vintage typewriter, eschewing the trappings of the modern world. It makes me glad I still have my retro film camera and a roll of black and white film. In short, inspiring and reassuring in its simplicity and old fashioned values.

Last but emphatically not least, to the music itself - as minimalist as the artwork, it is another case of don't-put-me-in-the-genre-box... is it country? I don't know - to me it is just good music. There is a country tinge to it, in its mournful acoustic depression, its use of real instruments - piano, violin, guitar, string arrangements, its sparse production, old school values and feeling of grit and lonesomeness - sometimes hinson is close to a cappella, particularly on "the fire came up to my knees" - here, just a quiet acoustic guitar underneath his voice which is so close to the top of the mix it seems as if he's in the room singing right into my ear... and the expressiveness of his imperfect gravel tones with a country inflection conveys the true emotion of the song - it is blistering in its rawness and yet understated - like a Jennifer Jason Leigh supporting role. There's some of that lovely countryish steel guitar with a twist of el paso on the next track, "you will find me". this is beautiful music, authentic and pure - true to the spirit and traditions of old country, but standing lonely and apart with a quiet beauty of its own. discover micah p. henson without preconception, and you will feel like its christmas, like a little gift to your music-loving soul.