John Moreland - High On Tulsa Heat
Imagine a scientist was trying to produce a perfect singer songwriter out of a petri dish. He snuck backstage at a Bruce Springsteen gig and swiped The Boss’s toothbrush. Then he nabbed Conor Oberst’s hairbrush at a music hall venue. The scientist ran the DNA data through his clone machine. Chances are he’ll end up producing someone like John Moreland: the sound of Springsteen; the delivery of lines of Oberst (aka Bright Eyes). Moreland’s third solo release, High On Tulsa Heat, hit the shelves this side of the Atlantic recently, and probably snuck under most people’s radar. Undeservedly so.
Beautiful lyrics, beautiful delivery, from a man dubbed the songwriter’s songwriter. If he had to be wedged into a genre, it would be Americana, but there are elements of rock. Most of the album is deep, thoughtful prose, coming from a mind, you imagine, that is operating on many different levels. There are strains of patriotism, heartbreak, battles with the mind and with external influences. 'White Flag' is one of the stand out tracks on this release, 'Losing Sleep Tonight' could easily have slipped off Tom Petty’s guitar. And 'Cherokee' will tug at your heart strings ("I guess I got a taste for poison / I've given up on ever bein' well / I keep mindin' the horizon / Diggin' for lies I have yet to tell").
When Moreland cranks it up, it works so well. However, you get the feeling that if he cranked it up one more notch, he’d be rubbing shoulders quality-wise with Springsteen, if not selling out stadium after stadium. He deserves more success, and deserves to be more widely known over this side of the world. If there’s any justice, and if music fans have their way, he’ll find that success. This album’s a slow burner, but stick with it. Once you get it, you’ll be high on Moreland’s heat.