John Moreland has been one of those best-kept secrets for a while now, slowly emerging as a highly respected songwriter on the alt-country/Americana scene. He’s never had a breakout single or any landmark moment, rather he’s slowly refined and improved his craft, garnering increasing critical acclaim and a growing fanbase.
Big Bad Luv finds him in fine form, arguably his best. His storytelling is rich, with vivid emotional resonance and a strong melancholic streak that leans toward lessons learned and bruised optimism. It’s the daily mental struggle, battling the demons that everyday life throws at us all. Perhaps the greatest achievement of this album is the balance he’s found musically. It’s certainly not a lone troubadour album, instead it gently overflows in beautiful piano (courtesy of Lucero’s Rick Steff), pedal steel, shuffling drums and sweet acoustic guitar sounds. Moreland conjures up a more rootsy Springsteen (‘Amen, So Be It’) with slight diversions into folk and blues (Ain’t We Gold’), making him a definite kindred spirit with the likes of Drive-By Truckers and Jason Isbell.
The highlight comes with ‘Slow Down Easy’, with it’s fine lyrical turn – “I’ve been hauling a heavy soul”, his catchiest melodic hook and an infectious laid-back, swaying groove. Moreland has progressively shown over four solo albums that he’s a musical lifer who’s getting better at every turn.