Over the course of the last few Hiss Golden Messenger albums, MC Taylor has become one of the preeminent names for fans of contemporary Americana. And if you’ve ever seen his band live, you know he has some serious musicians on the road with him. One of them is fellow North Carolina native Ryan Gustafson, who plays guitar on Hiss Golden Messenger tours but also has his own project the Dead Tongues. Today, he’s announced his third album under the moniker: Unsung Passage.
When it comes to the mythology that’s surrounded folk wanderers over the years, Gustafson offers a modern approximation of the real deal. He’s backpacked across Europe, and hitchhiked across America with just a banjo. He lived in a school bus he rebuilt; he also intended to take it across the country, but ran out of gas money. Now he resides in a camper in the woods in Asheville, and in the quiet moments between tours he retreats there, to collect his thoughts and memories of all those travels and funnel them into the songs that become Dead Tongues material.
Fittingly, then, the music on Unsung Passage is in line with other contemporary Americana — it blends strains of folk, blues, country, and rock for meditations that can balance pangs of yearning with true wonder, that can conjure up the swamps of the south as well as the plains out in the middle of the country. Gustafson’s sound is roadworn, bearing the marks of all the time spent in all those places. If you like Hiss Golden Messenger, chances are you’ll also appreciate what Gustafson is doing here.
Along with the announcement, Gustafson has shared Unsung Passage’s lead single “Won’t Be Long.” The track is emblematic of the rambling man storytelling that dominates Unsung Passage. “Don’t know which side of the fight I’m on/ Don’t know when I’ll die/ But it won’t be long,” Gustafson sings plaintively in the chorus over some gently tumbling fingerpicked guitar. Check it out below.
01 “Won’t Be Long”
02 “Ebb And Flow”
03 “Pale November Dew”
04 “My Other”
05 “Like A Dream”
06 “Unsung Passage”
07 “The Broken Side Of People Everywhere”
08 “Thunder And Crash”
09 “The Giver”
10 “Clip Your Wings”
Unsung Passage is out 5/18 via Psychic Hotline. Pre-order it here.