So often a song crafted with extreme care and skill is lost because of the way that it is delivered. Such is not the case with John Moreland‘s songs. I can feel the hurt as his gruff and rasped voice crosses through my headphones. He forces a feeling upon the listener and the emotion takes over. Magic.
‘Cleveland Country Blues’ is a heavy, emotional slightly slow burn. The band churns slowly under Moreland’s hefty dose of heartache and longing…and its perfect.
I could bury all the memories, I could patch up all the holes
but I’d still feel your fingers on my soul
“Sad Baptist Rain” has a bit more swing and movement to it. A little more injection of rock, with some tasty ringing guitar lines, and the songwriter picking up the pace a bit. And those harmonies around the chorus are subtle, and extremely effective.
”I guess I’ve got a taste for poison, I’ve given up on ever being well” is the first line of the song “Cherokee” and is as effective of a first line as there ever was one. The hook is in the listeners mouth, and the follow up line that John delivers “I keep mining the horizon, digging for lies I’ve yet to tell” sets the hook deep, and you are on the line. The entire record is baked full of those lines. The kind of lines that make you rewind the track and listen again immediately. The ones that sit with you for a long time after listening. The ones you keep going back to again. The sparsity of the song with a main acoustic and some ghosted slide and a thumping bass note every so often is a beautiful accompaniment to the mood and feel of this one. This guy is just slaying me with these songs and I am only just over halfway into the record.
There is an honesty and a “putting it all out there” conviction in Moreland’s lyrics and his delivery of them in his songs. He unearths those difficult feelings in a way that creates beauty from torment and his gritty but endearing vocal is the perfect vessel for it. The musicianship backing him through is fantastic and the arrangements complement the songs wonderful, though I would love to just sit in my living room listening to John sing his stories someday. The point here is the songs and the words, and that point is that this gent can pen a hell of a great tune. “High on Tulsa Heat” has very quickly dug itself into my heart and lodged itself there for a long time to come as one of my favorite tunes.
(John Moreland photo by Joey Kneiser)