John Moreland’s Big Bad Luv (4ad) is an alt-country, roots-rock Americana music lover’s dream. From start to finish it’ll possess you and run your emotions through the gamut of love, fear, pain and joy and back again, and draw them all out into the big wide-open country sky. Produced by Moreland himself in Little Rock, Arkansas’ Fellowship Fall Sound studio with Tchad Black mixing (Sheryl Crow, the Black Keys), this album stays true to his earlier albums High On Tulsa Heat (ThirtyTigers/Old Omens) and In the Throes (Last Chance) in its poignant authenticity. But this time, his songs thoroughly rock and roll as they carry his fans along in the more joyful process of healing the human heart.
John Moreland has achieved mastery of the Americana vision: moving, emotional lyrics and vocals, and captivating, hypnotic soulful musical arrangements. The album opener “Sallisaw Blue” is the kind of catchy, foot-stompin’, roots rock number you’ll program to repeat and listen to all day long with its energetic and infectious harmonica riffs. Great songs only need one great lyric line, and this song has this: “I need you, come on burn right through, honey, show me I’m not shattered.” The lively opener provides foreshadowing that this album will reveal silver linings within the painful storm clouds of life. But we are quickly reminded of Moreland’s more somber emotive skills in the follow-up: “If we don’t bleed, it don’t feel like song” he sings with his husky, gritty, honeyed voice in “Old Wounds”. “Love Is Not An Answer” lulls the listener with lyrics that’ll startle you to pay closer attention to this original perspective: “love is not an answer, I don’t need an answer, I need you.” “Slow Down Easy” is a build-up song with glorified peaks reminiscent of the Band. “Lies I Chose to Believe” confesses that “you are the lie I chose to believe.” Its imagery of memories and faded photographs drift over old timey piano and the reliable support of the rhythm section. “It Don’t Suit Me (Like Before)” is a relatable crowd-pleaser both lyrically and musically, featuring Jared Tyler’s dobro. The songs on this project never stop their offerings.
This delightful album adeptly balances between the joys and sorrows of both life and song, weaving back and forth to share its lessons. If you are not yet a fan of John Moreland, or are a fan who has yet to pick up your copy, run, don’t walk, to wherever you buy your music to get your copy of Big Bad Luv.
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