Mount Moriah has taken a shiny polish to their sound and come up with the exuberant How to Dance, their follow up to 2013’s beloved Miracle Temple. And what many were initially quick to peg as country has continued to morph and evolve into something much more complex. While lead singer Heather McEntire has the sweetness of Lee Ann Womack in her voice, she doesn’t use it nearly the same way. Instead, she sings with a hard edge, a little lived-in and weathered, which suits the more alt-country sound she and her band are moving toward with Dance.
Mount Moriah have not lost their twang – in fact it is amplified on a handful of tracks – but it’s definitely not at the forefront, at least for the first half of Dance. Instead, they go for pop-rock smoothness in their melodies. “Precita” is a good example of where the two sounds collide with an almost psychedelic guitar arrangement and McEntire on her country vibe. “Chiron (God in the Brier)” goes this route, too, but with a slightly groovier, catchier pop sound and a random ‘80s feel.
“Calvander” is a little more punk rock than we’re used to from Mount Moriah, but it is also one of the more badass songs on Dance, as is “Cardinal Cross”. Both tracks come in the first half of the record, but by the time you get to the second, the vibe has changed a bit. The last five tracks play a little more cohesively, from the slow tunes “How to Dance” and “Little Bear”, to the bluesier “Fox in the City” and one of the album’s finest, the gorgeous country song “Higher Mind”.
To be a fan of Mount Moriah is to be a fan of McEntire and all she’s bringing to the table. Her voice is so distinct and it dominates every song. While Dance definitely feels fresh and strong as a whole, there are few tracks that really jump out. But the beauty of a band like Mount Moriah is in the sonic diversity they create, and it no doubt attracts a mixed bag of fans, from Americana lovers to alt-rock and country aficionados.