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Group Members: Tom Heyman
All Music Guide:
With few obvious alternative country comparisons, as they are neither drawn to the psychedelic sounds common to bands like Beachwood Sparks nor the rootsy rock of Son Volt and their ilk, the Court & Spark create twangy mood music. Formed around the nucleus of Scott Hirsch, Alex Stimmel, James Kim, and laconic lead vocalist M.C. Taylor, the San Francisco band moved past a noisier early incarnation to take cues from the classic sounds of the early country-rock era. Still, much as they apparently admire the troubadour aesthetic, the sound they capture is altogether more sonically progressive and multi-faceted than the work of simple roots rock revivalists. Their debut, 1999's Ventura Whites, garnered substantial praise on the strength of their hazy arrangements and expansive sun-bleached production. With pedal steel player Tom Heyman and vocalist Wendy Allen, as well as former Byrd and Flying Burrito Brother Gene Parsons, hopping on board for 2001's Bless You, the stage was set for one of the most fully realized Americana releases of the year. In 2004, the Court & Spark came out with the EP Dead Diamond River and the full-length Witch Season, followed two years later by Hearts.
The Court & Spark was a San Francisco-based indie rock band formed in the spring of 1998 around the nucleus of Scott Hirsch, Alex Stimmel, James Kim, and lead vocalist M.C. Taylor. Between 1998 and 2001 the group established itself among the leaders of the alt-country Americana scene.
After Hirsch and Taylor's early and noisy participation in Ex-Ignota, the two (along with bassist Joe Rogers and others) found themselves in San Francisco, and formed the country-oriented group, taking cues from the classic sounds of the early country-rock era as well as incorporating more sonically progressive and multi-faceted compositions as evidenced on their tUMULt Records 1999 debut Ventura Whites.
The group achieved acclaim with their 2001 release Bless You which included support from pedal steel player Tom Heyman and vocalist Wendy Allen, as well as former Byrd and Flying Burrito Brother Gene Parsons. A review in Pitchfork by Christopher F. Schiel which gave it an impressive score of 9.0 (later inexplicably downgraded to 8.4 ) as well as feature in December 2001 on NPR's All Things Considered by Sarah Bardeen. helped gain the band recognition.
The band returned in 2004 with Witch Season as well as the EP - Dead Diamond River featuring contributions from Linda Thompson and M. Ward.
The Court & Spark officially disbanded in the summer of 2007 with a post to the band's website, "It's hard to say that The C&S is breaking up, as we still spend all our time together, but seeing as how we're all involved in different musical projects, it seems best to retire the C&S name for a while. We've had a good run and have had the good fortune to meet all kinds of wonderful souls as we've stumbled down the road. Thank you one and all for everything you've given us."
M.C. Taylor and Scott Hirsch moved to the East Coast—Chapel Hill, NC and New York City respectively—and started a new project together called Hiss Golden Messenger which has released two albums, Country Hai East Cotton and Root Work with a new release Bad Debt coming in November 2010 on Black Maps.