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John Moreland – Big Bad Luv

Discussion in 'Article Discussion' started by Melody Bot, May 5, 2017.

  1. Melody Bot

    Your friendly little forum bot. Staff Member

    This article has been imported from chorus.fm for discussion. All of the forum rules still apply.

    A former punk, hardcore, and metalcore singer from Tulsa, Oklahoma, John Moreland made one of the greatest and most pervasively sad country records of the decade so far with 2015’s High on Tulsa Heat. “I’m so damn good at sorrow,” he sang in one of the LP’s key tracks, and he was right. Most of the songs were driven by little more than acoustic guitar and voice, and the lyrics were so heavy and despairing that the record was tough to listen to more than once in a multi-day span. If you were hurting for just about any reason, though, that album could be your best friend.

    On first listen, however, Moreland’s sixth LP—called Big Bad Luv—sounds like a distinct departure from its predecessor. Most of the songs on High on Tulsa Heat made me want to cry. A good percentage of Big Bad Luv makes me want to dance. This record is markedly brighter—both in lyrical tone and sound—than Moreland’s last release. Opening track “Sallisaw Blue” crackles out of the gate with an infectious acoustic guitar riff, a blistering harmonica, and a (literally) hand-clapping rhythm. It sounds more like Blonde on Blonde-era Dylan that it does like Moreland’s last few records. The chorus serves as a fitting mission statement for the record’s brighter tone: “God bless these blues, let’s get wrecked and bruised and battered/I need you, come on burn right through/Honey, show me I’m not shattered.” After a record full of songs about being broken, it makes for an empowering mission statement to hear Moreland singing about not being broken.

    That’s not to say Big Bad Luv is all big, bluesy, and uptempo. Moreland is a melancholy songwriter, and there is still plenty of melancholy to be found in these 11 songs. The second track, “Old Wounds,” feels more like the Moreland we know and love. “If we don’t bleed, it don’t feel like a song,” he proclaims in the chorus. Bleeding on tape is what Moreland does so well, and Big Bad Luv, despite its raucous beginnings, serves up its fair share of sad songs. Album highlight “Lies I Chose to Believe” features a driving, muted drumbeat and a sparse palette of acoustic guitar and piano, set against brutal lines like “Good luck finding your peace of mind/Being born into these brutal times/These days I don’t pray when I close my eyes/I just bite my tongue a bit harder.”

    “No Glory in Regret” hits even harder. A solo acoustic number that sounds like it would have been right at home on High on Tulsa Heat, “No Glory in Regret” is a thoughtful song about being haunted by the past—specifically by the ghosts of lost loved ones and friends who fell out of touch. “I’ve been pouring whiskey in the wind/Burning pictures of my best friends/Until the ashes cover me like rain,” Moreland sings early on in the track, before making an observation about the slow decay of time that will break your heart: “And you meant something to me then/And you mean something to me now/But some things aren’t meant to stay the same.” Not all friendships are built to last forever, and regretting those broken bonds is tantamount to wishing you could rewrite your story, change who you are, and give back the things you wanted. Realizing you couldn’t have kept someone in your life even if you wanted to is a tough pill to swallow, and Moreland knows it: “Don’t it feel like the truth/Comes at the price of your youth?/When the hell you’ve paid ain’t quite enough?”

    These songs are heavy, filled with dense lyrical poetry that different listeners will likely interpret in their own ways, depending on their personal experiences. But where Tulsa Heat basked in the sadness, the songs on Big Bad Luv see Moreland finding contentment amidst the heartbreak and hurt. Since he made his last record, Moreland has gotten married, scored a record deal, and started building a strong, passionate fan following. He’s been fortunate, and those factors figure into his songwriting, adding color and hope to his melancholy songs. “I found me a reason to be a man/Out on the shoulder with an outstretched hand/Just a little solid ground to stand/Is all I ever needed,” he sings late in “Lies I Chose to Believe,” before acknowledging “Love ain’t a sickness, though I once thought it was.” “No Glory in Regret” finds a similar silver lining. “I was standing on a dead-end drive/With my pride thumbing for a ride/And somehow I ended up next to you.” He can’t regret the events and choices of his past, because they led him to the good things that populate his present.

    Music fans tend to have a problem when famously sad artists stop writing poignantly depressing songs. Just look at the way Ben Gibbard’s stock has plummeted with most listeners since 2003. Moreland’s music was easy to love on High on Tulsa Heat, because relating to it was straightforward. If you were sad, there weren’t many better songs to put on than “Hang Me in the Tulsa County Stars,” “Cherokee,” or “You Don’t Care Enough for Me Enough to Cry.” Big Bad Luv is more complex and nuanced in its emotions, and those complexities make it a less immediate album than its predecessor. But these songs are rich, layered, and beautiful—from the foot-tapping full-band numbers like “Ain’t We Gold” and “It Don’t Suit Me (Like Before)” to the confessional ballads like “Latchkey Kid” that Moreland does so well. Put it on for your next road trip and let Moreland’s wisdom drown out the hum of the wheels on the highway. Trust me: it’ll hit you hard.

     
  2. drewinseries

    Drew @AndrewNCaruso fb/kingwildlands

    He's just so damn good.
     
    Craig Manning likes this.
  3. Craig Manning

    @FurtherFromSky Moderator

    I was listening to In the Throes and High on Tulsa Heat again yesterday. Those two records are just incredible. I don't know if I'll ever love this one quite as much, but it's very good.
     
  4. Ben Lee

    I drink coffee and dad my kids Supporter

    I didnt think there was anything that could knock me off the Isbell binge I was on, and then I discovered him. Even his John Moreland & The Black Gold Band is awesome.
     
  5. Michael Schmidt

    Don't recreate the scene, or reinvent the meanings Supporter

    John Moreland is so good. Can't wait to hear this new record.
     
    Craig Manning likes this.
  6. Michael Schmidt

    Don't recreate the scene, or reinvent the meanings Supporter

    And no disrespect to you, Craig, but I am actually going to read your review after I listen to the record. I want this one to be a surprise for me. Even though I think we know John's music at this point, you usually do a really good job describing records so I don't want to spoil it for myself haha.
     
    Craig Manning likes this.
  7. Dave Diddy

    I've been out looking for where the light went Supporter

    Really digging this new Moreland, but that's not a surprise.
     
    Craig Manning likes this.
  8. somethingliketj

    And that's why you always leave a note.

    Every bit as good as the two that preceded it. Great review.
     
  9. DaydreamNation May 9, 2017
    (Last edited: May 9, 2017)
    DaydreamNation

    she lullabies the refugees with an amplifier's hum Supporter

    Finally getting to this record. This is fucking excellent, big step up for a guy who was already great. Reminds me of James McMurtry.
     
    Craig Manning likes this.
  10. DaydreamNation

    she lullabies the refugees with an amplifier's hum Supporter

    "These days I don't pray when I close my eyes, I just bite my tongue a bit harder"
     
    coleslawed and Craig Manning like this.
  11. Craig Manning

    @FurtherFromSky Moderator

    I think I probably still like Tulsa Heat more, but this is a great record.
     
  12. DaydreamNation

    she lullabies the refugees with an amplifier's hum Supporter

    I'll have to go back to that one, it's been awhile. I think I like the arrangements on this one a bit more after one listen, feels more fully formed
     
  13. Craig Manning

    @FurtherFromSky Moderator

    This one is more fleshed out, but I think the songwriting was a little stronger on the last record.
     
    DaydreamNation likes this.
  14. Ben Lee

    I drink coffee and dad my kids Supporter

    I think I like In the Throes more, but these three records in a row are perfect.
     
  15. Craig Manning

    @FurtherFromSky Moderator

    In the Throes is also great. "Gospel" is still his best song.
     
  16. Ben Lee

    I drink coffee and dad my kids Supporter

    Oh yeah, you nailed it! I love that song. I also really like "American Flags" on Tulsa Heat, reminds me of "Gospel" in a way.

    The crazy thing is I listened to him like year ago and wasn't interested. Came back and became obsessed.
     
    Craig Manning likes this.
  17. Craig Manning

    @FurtherFromSky Moderator

    Did I recommend him to you?

    Yeah, "American Flags" kind of plays the same role as "Gospel." I think my favorite off Tulsa Heat is "Hang Me in the Tulsa County Stars" though. That one always hits me real hard.
     
  18. Ben Lee

    I drink coffee and dad my kids Supporter

    Yeah I asked you for a list on here or twitter and you mentioned him. I listened and something didn't catch me, but I went back like a year later and it just clicked. I instantly bought his records on vinyl and fell in love.

    I mentioned to my wife the other day how there's this song called "Vonnegut" by Arliss Nancy and if I could have a whole album like that song, I'd be in heaven. John Moreland has answered that request, haha!
     
  19. Dave Diddy

    I've been out looking for where the light went Supporter

    Man Vonnegut is such an amazing song. I like Greater Divides but there's nothing on it that can touch Vonnegut. Momentum is a good closer though.
     
  20. Ben Lee

    I drink coffee and dad my kids Supporter

    I've actually found that I enjoy Cory Call as a songwriter much more than I enjoy GB. Every song that I like by them is a Cory song, which makes me want a Cory solo album in the worst way.
     
  21. Craig Manning

    @FurtherFromSky Moderator

    Not familiar with that song. I'll have to check it out!
     
  22. Ben Lee

    I drink coffee and dad my kids Supporter

  23. Dave Diddy

    I've been out looking for where the light went Supporter

    Still loving this cd. Going to end up pretty high on my end of year list.
     
  24. Craig Manning

    @FurtherFromSky Moderator

    I haven't listened in a bit. I like it, but it's a pretty sizable step down from Tulsa Heat for me.
     
  25. Michael Schmidt

    Don't recreate the scene, or reinvent the meanings Supporter

    It Don't Suit Me is one of his best songs in his catalog, but as a whole I do like Tulsa Heat more as well. Still a really good record.