I'm not especially familiar with Horseback or Bellafea, the other bands that Heather McEntire and Jenks Miller of Mount Moriah more famously inhabit, but I know enough to know that Miracle Temple is a significant departure from both. It'd be pretty sad to allow this review to focus overtly on the incongruity of this project in relation to other endeavours, particularly when the fare on offer is so enjoyable in its own right.

The first thing that hits me when I listen to Miracle Temple is my pathetic lack of knowledge regarding the genre it very faithfully maintains. Modern Country music is inimitably American. The pictures McEntire and Miller paint are broad vista, taking in William Faulkner's small town neo-Puritanism and frontiersman-ship as well as more modern interpretations of the state of the South. For the most part Mount Moriah keep the building blocks extremely familiar, pushing McEntire's careworn lyrics (delivered in a Dolly Parton-esque, considered country-gal yodel) to the foreground. The musicianship is precise and unfaltering, mathematically punching every note and beat like a clergyman intoning long since memorised passages from Psalms. Modern Country is not something I have ever been drawn to; I have found it to be oddly un-engaging and difficult to relate to as an English suburbanite, despite my love of the more backwoods and off-kilter genre work by Tom Waits, Buck 65 and Woods. Those artists act like tourists in the genre's trappings, bringing more of themselves than their appreciation; Miracle Temple is doused in Americana, and consequently makes no efforts to appeal to the uninitiated.

Which isn't to say that it doesn't also possess a lot of charm, and a huge amount of polish. 'I Built A Town' is a breathlessly gorgeous paean to lost love, inadequacy and loneliness: "I grew flowers to cover / towers to hold you high / but there was nothing I could do to keep you inside." The cover art depicts a house burning as readiness is made for the construction of a new dam; the overarching feeling in the album is a similar sort of waspish longing, and the need to seek refuge in the midst of a changing world. 'I Built A Town' sees McEntire metaphorically constructing a safe haven inside herself, in which to protect (and imprison) her partner. Even as the walls are going up, she can see her prize slipping away. It's an old Southern Gothic in the grandest tradition, and credit should be paid to McEntire and Miller for making it all feel fresh, despite its vintage.

In tone, form and execution, the album is extremely consistent. Aside from the lovely 'Eureka Springs' and 'I Built A Town', no track grasps for attention any more than any other, and there are no sudden lurches into the areas both songwriters are more accustomed to. Echoes of the South abound, particularly the relentlessly self-questioning lyrics and staidly professional arrangements. Antebellum melancholia drips from every rasping guitar chord and sweep of violins. At no point does the band cut free and run with a song, everything feels scripted and rehearsed, and not always to the album's benefit. It would be nice to hear a smidgeon of Horseback's grind, but that would be missing the point. This is clearly a labour of love for the contributors, and the final product is resolutely genuine.

If there's a final word to be said about Miracle Temple, it is that it has a very definite audience, and will creep its way into the initiate's consciousness and secure a place alongside its peers without any trouble.