Old Omens/Thirty Tigers
John Moreland is a master of melancholy, a chronicler of the downhearted and down on their luck, with his weathered and worn ache of a voice. He has a knack for delivering maximum emotional impact from minimal window dressing in his songs and he’s as much a soul singer as he is a country/folk singer in the way he pulls on heartstrings. On LP5 he’s exposed the lyrical skeletons of his songs even more while adding some wonderful traditional details and progressive textures to the music.
The experimental percussion and drumming across the album is a new shift for Moreland, as is the overall production courtesy of Matt Pence (Jason Isbell, The Breeders). ‘A Thought Is Just A Passing Train’ adds layered vocal effects over bluesy country funk and on ‘East October’ he’s written one of those effortless, familiar, yet totally his, chorus melodies. ‘Two Stars’ and ‘For Ichiro’ are two brief but beautiful guitar-based interludes that add another colour to the album, the later recalling the work of Jim O’Rourke. Elsewhere there are dedications to lost friends (‘In Times Between’), self-reflection and relationship analysis.
Subject-wise, LP5 is fairly standard songwriter fare but the expansive and inventive musicality of the album, the melodic sweet spots and Moreland’s vocal performance amount to his most rewarding album to date.