There's no doubt that many contributions made to musical projects outside of the North Texas region by artists living in this area often go unnoticed. From playing with acts such as GWAR (Casey Orr) to Ben Harper (Jordan Richardson and Justin Pate) to Murder by Death (Matt Armstrong), current and former metroplex musicians have been making noise all over the country for a very long time.
Last week, Miracle Temple, the new Merge Records release from North Carolina's Mount Moriah was greeted with near unanimous praise from many national outlets. While the musicianship of Jenks Miller and the writing and captivating vocals of Heather McEntire deservedly draw much of the spotlight, one of this area's most celebrated and popular musicians lent a very helpful hand to make the record one of this still-young year's best.
Daniel Hart, the talented vocalist and violinist contributed some string work to not only four of the songs from Mount Moriah's latest album ("I Built a Town," "Miracle Temple Holiness," "Swannanoa" and "Telling the Hour"), but helped them with their fantastic debut from 2011, as well. As it happens, the 2012 DOMA Male Vocalist of the Year goes back a ways with the folks of that band, making artistic collaboration and a lasting friendship possible.
"They are fantastic," Hart says of the members of Mount Moriah. "Heather, Jenks and I have been friends for a long time. I used to live in North Carolina and we've all collaborated together before in various ways. Heather sang harmonies on a couple songs on my old band's first album (The Physics of Meaning, 2005). I also put some strings on an album for Heather's old band, Bellafea."
For Miracle Temple, the band reached out to Hart for contributions, even though he wouldn't be able to record with them live in-studio.
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"Jenks sent me general ideas on what kinds of parts they were looking for, what role they wanted the strings to fill in each song, Hart explains. "So then I tried out a few things, sent them back for comments and made any necessary changes. Because we've worked together before, I think they had an idea of what to expect from me, so they gave me plenty of room to create the parts I thought would best fit the songs they sent me."
Having lived in North Carolina and known them for many years, Hart also knows the enormity of what it means for a group from the Raleigh-Durham area to be signed by the region's most beloved indie label, Merge Records. Being home to everyone from Superchunk to Arcade Fire, Merge has only grown in stature over time. It's not all that different from what a football player from a Dallas-area high school must feel like when he gets drafted by the Cowboys.
"I'm so proud of them and excited for what the possibilities of being on Merge means for their career," he says. "Like with any other label of any size, being on Merge doesn't guarantee anything, but it does give them a much better chance of being heard by people that wouldn't have heard them otherwise. I think that's what most musicians want most: to share their music with as many people as possible."