Release Date: Apr 21, 2015
Record label: Thirty Tigers
As I wrote in the preface to the PopMatters Best Americana of 2014, the genre is one “where honest craftsmanship is required, respected, and rewarded… the songs and music are what count.” Few artists working today typify this statement more than John Moreland. The former punk kid from Oklahoma found his way to songwriting via Steve Earle, yet politics and global matters have no home in Moreland’s songs; homespun truths ripped from the soul, the pain unearthed from within is Moreland’s specialty. Over the course of two solo albums Moreland has amassed an ardent following that hangs on his every word.
Tulsa, Oklahoma is two states away from Nebraska, but singer-songwriter John Moreland knows the territory well – especially, the desolate terrain covered in Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska. Moreland’s songs carry loneliness so deep across plains so vast, you can practically witness the ache, like a storm rolling across the horizon. Sometimes that ache churns like a tornado, wanting to chew everything in its path.
The lane is wide open for the would-be country revivalist. As the mainstream product increasingly incorporates new sounds and attitudes, there will always be audiences yearning for the sparer, "rootsier" sounds transporting them back to the days of the Highwaymen. It's an evergreen niche, and it is forever welcoming to new entrants. Enter Oklahoman songwriter John Moreland.
The Oklahoma folk singer John Moreland has a beautifully abraded voice, full of potholes and gravel. Rarely does he wield it with power — instead, his soft hallow scrape is marked by flexibility and candor. At the beginning of “Cherokee,” one of the many fine songs on “High on Tulsa Heat,” his third full-length solo album, he sings, “I guess I’ve got a taste for poison/ I’ve given up on ever being well,” and it sounds as if he’s singing from the sickbed somewhere, with no visitors on the horizon.
John Moreland High on Tulsa Heat (Old Omens) Between John Fullbright, Parker Millsap, and John Moreland, Oklahoma figures prominently in any discussion of which state is seeding today's best singer-songwriters. At 29, Moreland's older than the other two, but he's also arguably the most talented. High on Tulsa Heat, his third CD, finds the bearded wonder producing and playing most of the instruments.