ALBUMS: The Sweet, Sublime Sadness of John Moreland

The acclaimed Thirty Tigers artist’s sobering sentiments reflect the thoughts of a remarkably tender troubadour 

John Moreland LP5, Thirty Tigers 2020

Artist: John Moreland

Album: LP5

LabelThirty Tigers 

★★★★ (4/5 stars)

John Moreland is acutely aware of how music has customarily become a vehicle for venting emotions, frustrations and feelings that might otherwise be bottled up inside with no other avenue for escape other than a psychiatrist’s coach, or alternately, depression, indignation and uncontrollable temper tantrums.

It’s little wonder then that many musicians inevitably find ways to channel a dire disposition and express  it in ways that often encourage extreme empathy and bring a common connection with those who might feel the same pain, and share a sort of solace that others can draw from on their own. 

On the other hand, it can also give the listener some satisfaction in the fact that no matter how hard they have it, there’s someone that’s worse off than they are. And when that someone is a successful musician, it’s can be all the more satisfying still. We humans can be a pretty petty lot after all, and sadly, someone else’s ill fortunes often bolster our own sense of serenity as a reult.

Over the years, there’s rarely been an artist that didn’t excise their inner demons at one time or another. John Lennon and Paul McCartney famously dispelled the notion that fame and fortune could dispel inner torment in their songs “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” and “Yesterday,” respectively. Nick Drake became a cult favorite by writing and recording beautiful brooding ballads that revealed more about his inner psyche than a decade of continuing counseling would ever provide. Any number of disparate artists such as Jackson Browne, Jeff Buckley and Joni Mitchell are bit three of those who would soon follow suit.

John Moreland 2020 (Art: Ron Hart)

Flash forward to the present day where we find singer/songwriter Moreland digging deep into his own psyche with his descriptively titled fifth album LP5, a somewhat subdued set of songs that reflect somber sentiments and a somewhat melancholy mindset. “In Times Between” finds him paying tribute to friend and fellow songwriter Chris Porter, who tragically died as a result of a van accident in 2016.  “When My Fever Breaks” offers a deeply moving tribute to his relationship with his wife, from their first date forward through to the three years that followed. Even, the celestial instrumental “Two Stars” adds an  introspective appeal all its own.

In some cases, the song titles tell it all, “Harder Dream,” “A Thought is Just a Passing Train,” “Learning How to Tell Myself the Truth,” “When My Fever Breaks,” and “I Always Let You Burn Me to the Ground” betray a series of conflicting emotions that are strained by inner turmoil and confusion that are inevitably difficult to resolve. And yet, while music is decidedly low-cast, it’s also engaging and affecting.  Stoic yet somber, Moreland’s reflects and ruminates with a rich, resonant vocal that grounds each offering in a kind of Everyman engagement. 

Despite its despair, LP5 is a beautiful record and one that leaves a sturdy impression. Moreland’s a master of unadorned emotion and clearly a poignant and passionate performer to boot.


Lee Zimmerman
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Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville, Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.

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