Life has a strange habit of never exactly going according to plan; just when it seems even, life throws a curve ball to put things off balance. Some call it karma, while others call it luck. Life seems to right itself, in the end.
Micah P. Hinson experienced a turbulent period in his late teens, involving narcotics, jail time for forging prescriptions and a tumultuous relationship with a Vogue cover model – all before the age of 20, Hinson was homeless, penniless and abandoned by his family. He was eventually forced to declare himself bankrupt and moved into a motel and acquired a mundane telemarketing job. During this period, Micah still managed to write around 30 songs on borrowed instruments and equipment.
2004 saw Micah Paul Hinson catapulted from being a skate kid down on his luck to making one of the year’s finest and most critically acclaimed debut albums, Micah P. Hinson and the Gospel of Progress (which made numerous ‘Best of 2004’ polls, especially in the UK including Uncut, The Independent, the BBC and Time Out UK) and traveling the world playing with the likes of Iron & Wine, Antony & the Johnsons, Devendra Banhart, The Arcade Fire and most recent being invited on tour with KT Tunstall and Richard Hawley.
“I find it strange that the amount of prescription drugs I was taking during the recording and promotion of The Gospel Of Progress record was far less than what the press boys and girls were thinking and writing” recalls Micah. “At that time, I had somewhat found my way out of a great deal of those vices. I had found them overall very tiresome and if something, in the end, only serves to make you and your soul weary, it is in no way worth the time spent. Though once I had found this little bit of truth, the gods sent a bit of a gloomy look down on me and life went left, instead of maybe right”.
Left indeed. The turn of events that happened next was definitely ones of life’s curve balls. After celebrating Burns night in 2005 in his hometown (“quite a strange thing to do in Abilene, Texas”), a ’high spirited’ friend playfully hit Micah square in the small of his back. “I went paralyzed for a moment, sucked it up and went back to life”. However, “over the next few weeks the pressure caved in and I could barely stand up. I was hunched over in constant pain”. With a imminent tour of Europe in the Spring of 2005 to support The Baby and the Satellite EP, “I had to get back on the horse and ride it again. Like having to share a bed again with an ’ancient, ugly lover’ that was better left as a half-formed memory. It was 40 mg. of Codeine (Opiate), 100 mg. of Soma (muscle relaxer), 2 mg of Xanax (anti-anxiety and mind-eraser), 400 mg. Neurontin (anti-loony), and a few others and all this within every and any given day of my life”. Ironically, Micah found himself on the same prescription drugs as those he had been addicted to before he made The Gospel Of Progress, but under very different circumstances.
With little knowledge of just of how serious his back condition was, two months on the road aggravated his initial injury to breaking point. When Micah returned home to the US he was rushed to hospital to have back surgery. “I was in hospital for weeks, I couldn’t turn myself for over a month, had a walker, a corset (ironically a lot like the corset on The Gospel of Progress artwork), a shower chair as I couldn’t properly stand, I had to piss sitting down for awhile, basically a living nightmare.”
“The reason why I tell you all these things is because I want you to see and read where my life was when I began and finished this new full length record. I did the majority of the recordings sitting around the house, during the times I could actually get out of bed. Friends came to Abilene from all over to record their parts”. Eric Bachmann (of Archers of Loaf and Crooked Fingers) lent a helping hand and arranged the strings and horns, while Micah’s current touring partner and Gospel Of Progress veteran, H. Da Massa, traveled from Manchester, England to lay down Harmonica. Micah christened the band ’The Opera Circuit’.
The 11 songs that make up Micah P. Hinson and the Opera Circuit are the real deal – a document of friends “shooting the shit” on dusty summer evenings while creating some of the most beautiful and heartfelt music. This method of recording makes truly intimate and warm listen, from the sounds of crickets in the long grass on the opening front-porch lullaby ’Seems Almost Impossible’ to the surface hiss on prairie ballad, ‘She Don’t Own Me’, while the heavier, ’band’ songs on the album, such as ‘Letter from Huntsville’ and the epic beast, ’You’re Only Lonely’, sound as if they are straight out of a basement jam session. Perhaps the highlight of the album, though, is the beautiful piano led closing death-ballad, ’Don’t Leave Me Now’. While the album is layered with instrumentation, there is sense of space that allows Micah’s beautifully cracked yet warm vocal and matured songwriting to shine through with a real presence. Micah P. Hinson and The Opera Circuit maybe a little rougher around the edges than it predecessor, but its heart is definitely stronger and more honest.
That brings us back to where we started and life’s curve balls. “Looking back, it’s special. The sense that I was out of commission physically and here these friends came to create beautiful music that before never existed.”
Life certainly does right itself in the end.
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