Welcome Oklahoma native, John Moreland. Now repeat that name, J o h n M o r e l a n d. Let that name sink in and don’t forget it. Moreland is arguably one of the best singer-songwriters of our time. He has been sending audiences back to the ‘good-ole-days’ where things were simple, heavyhearted and warming. His music provokes every emotion you have like no other.
A veteran of the punk and hard-core scene, Moreland has been playing in bands for the best part of his life. As the core writer of those bands, he has crafted a style of writing that is refined and full of emotion. He understands how to express himself in a way that comes across as relatable. He understands the audiences he writes to, and the proper amount of detail needed in each song. It is easy to express either too vaguely or too specifically but Moreland has found a middle ground that makes the listener think real thoughts and feel real feelings. Moreland shifted away from the hard-core sound since his debut solo record, Earthbound Blues, in 2011. In 2013, In The Throes was released which was given a lot of high praise from not only music critics around the world but also fellow musicians. He has been mentioned in lines with greats like Van Zandt, Earle and Springsteen (just to name a few). The one song, Nobody Give a Damn About Songs Anymore, has always stood out as a favourite of mine on that album.
Nobody Gives a Damn About Songs Anymore
I can’t remember when I’ve felt this lost
I took a wrong turn trying to carry this cross
Why’d I have to go and get blessed with a curse
I’m chasing death or glory, whichever comes first
Early in 2015, High on Tulsa Heat was released to the world. Every album John Moreland creates is pure gold and personally I can’t get enough of it. He is one of those extraordinary musicians that has been able to control their career, direction, and music. He plays majority of the instruments on the album, is producer, engineer, and mixer. The production quality is not overdone, like most of today’s music, which adds a sense of warmth and intimacy. The ten songs put the listener through love, heartbreak, and acceptance. Each song has a concise agenda and theme but it leaves blanks for the listener to fill in and interpret. His music can make you cry but not out of sadness, out of emotion. At first listen you may think that Moreland only sings about sadness – but perhaps it seems that way because we can relate to these stories and it’s uncomfortable for us to admit that. Throughout the songs, he finds the correct balance between the cold and warm moods and oddly it is an uplifting and joyful album. From the opening track, Hang Me in the Tulsa County Stars, you get the sense of writing that echoes throughout.
And Babe I know, this world will have the wolves outside your door
Make you leave all that you love to fight a war
And never tell you what you’re dying for
So, darling, let charmers leave the room
Let them have that Nashville moon
I want to know exactly who you are
Then hang me in the Tulsa County stars
There is a way that Moreland evokes the listener in each song rather than explains and narrates. The album picks up slightly with tracks like Hearts to Heavy and Sad Baptist Rain, while it slows down with songs like, You Don’t Care For Me Enough To Cry. Moreland shows the audience that he can use both electric and acoustic guitars – full band and solo to demand your full attention. It could be easy to write about every line of lyrics or every song on the album as it all merits a review but I won’t. John Moreland should be a household name and is well on his way to being one of the greats.
Some days, being John Moreland has to hurt. As others bury experiences and stifle regrets, Moreland pokes old wounds until you’re sure they’ve got to be bleeding again. It’s painful. But in Moreland’s care, it’s also breathtakingly beautiful.
High on Tulsa Heat is about bad situations and finding the light in them. The challenges and struggles in our everyday. It is the emotional sh*t that everyone has felt, but he has the guts to put it in a song and share it to the world.
This is John Moreland.
A must-have album. Purchase or Stream Albums: https://johnmoreland.bandcamp.com/
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