Heather McEntire at Hopscotch 2012

Local favorites Mount Moriah just got a new batch of social wedding rings, this time courtesy of Durham’s own Merge Records. “I feel really proud of us,” admits lead singer Heather McEntire. “We were talking about this the other day: If we could have written down what label we’d want to be on in this sort of big dream kind of way, it would be Merge. It’s pretty surreal, but also feels like we earned it.”

The signing comes in a week where the Merge roster has already grown by two, with Nashville’s William Tyler and fellow North Carolinians the Reigning Sound. Mount Moriah’s local connections make this one special, partially because those paying attention have watched the group ascend from quiet secondary recording project to the band they are today.

This opportunity is decidedly a jump for the band that hitherto released their debut album on Holidays for Quince Records, a label founded by band members McEntire and Jenks Miller. “It feels like the right time for us to branch out of our label and look to someone who we really respect who has some resources that can help us get to that next level,” says McEntire, noting that focusing on their label in a different way is a perk of this new move. The other is seeing a limited-edition vinyl rerelease of the band’s self-titled debut record by Merge on Oct. 2. Fans who already own the album should note the addition of several exclusive live bonus tracks.

The Merge alliance also comes with the promise of a sophomore follow-up due sometime in early 2013. Recently recorded in Nashville, Miller says of the album “It’s definitely of a kind with the first one, but it definitely moves forward.” Its predecessor— a powerhouse collection of country, rock, folk and secular gospel sounds drawn out with evocative textures and lovely vocals— will not be an easy act to follow, which is perhaps why the band decided to kick up the energy a bit for the follow up.

“By and large, I think it’s a more rocking record, a bit more upbeat,” he says. “Where most of the first record was really slow, this one I think is going to allow us to play shows that are a little more high energy.”

Preorder Mount Moriah’s limited-edition self-titled LP on Merge Records here. Also, make plans to catch them at one of a scant number of November tour dates, including the Merge CMJ Showcase this October.