Recordings: Micah P. Hinson – Micah P. Hinson and the Opera Circuit

Before listening to Micah P. Hinson’s second record, I kept hearing that he recorded it while recovering from a bizarre back injury. It’s everywhere: on the front page of his Web site, strewn across blogs, on press releases and shouted from rooftops. My knee-jerk reaction to gimmicks left me cautious about the record’s musical content.

I quickly realized that this apprehension was unnecessary. Musical landscapes crafted by strings and Micah’s rich voice lay the foundation for an album that reveals intimate moments of folk juxtaposed with lush pop arrangements.

With respect to its more uplifting moments, Micah P. and the Opera Circuit is in no way a pop record — it is spatial and surreal, with string arrangements over simple underlying folk structures. Each track drifts into the next while still remaining singular, telling a separate and unique story. On the klezmer-tinged “Diggin’ a Grave,” Hinson tells us that he is “Digging a grave in the moonlight.” Then, the strings of “Drift off to Sleep” bring us out of that grave, or at least the empirical world, and closer to the stars and sky. From there, Hinson pulls the listener back to Earth with the electric guitars and loud brass of “Letter to Huntsville.”

Hinson’s push-pull formula is reminiscent of Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in that folk is merely a starting point. His only fallacy lies in a predictable bed of lyrics — where Jeff Tweedy (of Wilco) chose the abstract and poetic, Hinston chooses the familiar words of his many predecessors. Appeals to emotion, love and self-doubt fill the album, making it as lyrically predictable as it is musically unique.