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Depressing songs, but Moreland rides on

Atwood's Tavern, Cambridge, Mass., June 14, 2015

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Other recent concert reviews
By Jeffrey B. Remz

It would be perfectly understandable if John Moreland's fans were really worried about him.

Not to be would be avoiding the elephant in the room - Moreland's songs. Bottom line - many are exceedingly depressing. Like just about every single one that he played during stint at the 100-person capacity bar.

Yet, outwardly and in his self-produced CD out "High on the Tulsa Heat," his third release, which has expanded his fan base and press clips in a most positive way, one would think that life ain't so bad after all for Moreland.

But take a listen to his songs, and it seems otherwise, starting with "Hang Me in the Tulsa County Tars," where Moreland sings "No, I don't wanna come back down to earth/my heart is growing heavy from the ever endless hurt."

Note, however, that prior to singing anything, Moreland deadpanned, "here's a bunch of songs that I made up."

Later, on "Cleveland County Blues," Moreland sings, "My baby's a tornado in the endless Oklahoma Sky/Spinning devastation, then singing me a lullaby."

Fortunately, Moreland, a heavily tattooed, very large 29-year-old from Oklahoma, has a sense of humor about him. He made enough lighter comments to sufficiently cut the dourness of the lyrics.

Moreland is a bit of a plain singer, although that should not be taken as any sort of negative. He has a very very slight scratchiness to his delivery, sitting on a chair the entire time with acoustic guitar in hand. He almost seems matter of fact in wallowing in the pain that life has dealt him.

The songs tended to be on the slower, quieter side. In a different era, this would be considered folk music. The songs are more fleshed out musically on the album, but in concert, Moreland relies only on his guitar. He picked it pretty darn well to give the songs musical form.

Moreland seemingly may find little to enjoy through his prism of life. And it may be asking his fans a lot to "enjoy" the journey with him, but at least he does it well.

Yet, when all was said and done after 80 minutes, Moreland may not have been quite the downer he appeared to be. Ending the night with "Gospel" and vocally recalling Springsteen, Moreland's closing words were "I wanna set fear on fire, and give dreaming a fair shot/And never give up whether anybody cares or not."

Glad to hear because Moreland's ride was not a pretty one.