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One of many aspects associated with reviewing albums is the irregular quality. You may pick up three or four in a row and find them a difficult for one reason or another. Or two or three, rarely four bring unbridled enthusiasm. I had just gone through an extended run of the former when Americana roots recording act John Moreland’s High On Tulsa Heat dropped through my letterbox.
Known to me by name only the moment I place his record on my player my ears pricked up, instantly so taken was I by his work. He is good, damn good! His songs and raspy, battle weary vocals have character (a little Springsteen-ish) and honesty that gushes with force as every note and detailed lyric is given the attention it deserves. By all accounts Moreland sounds like he’s travelled a few back roads, played his share of budget beer joints in Tulsa, Oklahoma where he resides, and has done for twenty years. Ever since his parents relocated there from Kentucky. Moreland’s gritty music warmed by a poetic beauty deals with life, quite often the knuckle end as he speaks of how you can just as easily destroy a good thing than build on the hard work that has put you there.
Joining him you have Jesse Aycock, John Calvin Abney, Jared Tyler, Chris Foster and Kierston White as he plunders the emotions of the heart. Moreland has come a long way from the punk roots of his youth and with High On Tulsa Heat only his third album he is set to graduate with honours in coming years as he establishes a sound of his own. As for songs on the record they don’t much better or moodier than “Cleveland County Blues”, “American Flags In Black & White” and with Tyler pitching in some melodious Dobro to accompany sad-eyed tune “You Don’t Care For Me Enough To Cry” (best song on the record, and arguably the best heard in many a month).
Better even than opening track “Hang Me In The Tulsa County Stars” and the above noted, acoustic opened “Cleveland Blues”, gritty ode “Sad Baptist Rain” and “Cherokee” and one so full of recriminations “Losing Sleep Tonight” it about breaks the bank. Enjoy.
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