John Moreland is a musician that you can’t just explain to someone with a couple songs and a few adjectives. Moreland’s music comes from a place of struggle, heart ache, and raw life experiences which everyone in the audience can relate to. Friday night at the Turf Club in St.Paul was in it’s own way a raising of the glass to the struggles that everyone in the room has at one time or many felt themselves. The entire show I felt a quiet sense of reverence for the stories Moreland sang about. That night’s service at the Church of Moreland was opened up by Will Johnson, of Centro-matic, and the night’s sermon reminding us love can destroy you. But it’s worth it.
In trying to capture how Will Johnson’s tone set the stage and flowed into Moreland’s I find myself unable to find adequate words but can visualize a scene, that’s how I listen to music so I hope you the reader tag along. In this scene a man sits on the roadside by his parked truck staring off into the distance of the open countryside at dusk. He’s alone with a smoke and his thoughts with a look of contemplation over a decision he must make over a woman. The only thought on his mind, do I wanna be hurt again. He gets in his truck and drives to find the answers. That’s when Will’s voice comes in through the radio and you hear the words, “but when you’re not around, nothing makes a sound…”
Will is a man that has experienced his share of struggle in life, including the burning down of his studio just before recording a new album, and though being an opener tonight he captured the audience from the start. His voice carries with it the memory of every song’s story and it’s hard to ignore. At times while not even knowing what words he was singing I found myself frozen and forgetting I was suppose to be photographing. There is a very real sense of humbleness and vulnerability with Will’s music that gave most of the crowd pause, it was amazing to watch. As I said I found myself in a blur of fascination listening but I will say I couldn’t have enjoyed Will’s set more and it set the stage, har, perfectly for Moreland. See some recommendations below.
Continuing the visual from our scene of a man with an unsettled mind in thought…
Flash forward some period of time and our man of contemplation is back at the side of the road. Sitting with a smoke, head hanging, eyes closed, trying to digest his new struggle, heartache. But he doesn’t cry, he doesn’t curse at the sky, he is just trying to come to terms with the pain and still thinks love is worth that pain. Truck stereo playing again the words or Moreland come through “…I worshipped at the altar of losing everything…”
Moreland’s music from the passerby’s perspective would seem melancholy and heartbreaking, and I woulndn’t blame them. But when you get to the root of what Moreland sings of you realize there is a poetic therapy in the words to songs such as Break My Heart Sweetly and You Don’t Love Me Enough to Cry. Taking a step back you sense the real message is we all love, we all hurt, we all heal and there is a bond between all people in that and it’s something to learn from not avoid. As Moreland says so simply, “I should be dealing with my demons, but I’m dodging them instead”. Now, don’t fret if you are worrying at this point Moreland’s show is just a night of glass raising to the relationships and heart breaks of days gone by, it isn’t. Moreland played tracks from his latest album, Big Bad Luv, which I can’t help but love the title I dont know why. I like simple I guess. I was really hoping to hear the first track off the new album, Sallisaw Blue, but alas nothing. It’s an upbeat almost dancing is required song and a definite one to check out. Of the songs Moreland pulled from his new album was Lies I Choose to Believe. A nice mix of reminiscing lyrics and upbeat mood to fill in the set after a crowd favorite… You Don’t Love Me Enough to Cry.
I could go on for some time on reasons why I loved every song from Will and Moreland’s show at the Turf Club. But when all is said and done all I can say is these are a couple of true artists who’s bumpy road pasts come through in lyrics easy to relate to and raw sincerity. Every show I go to I try to take something from, whether from the music, the artist themselves, or the experience. Attending a show in the Church of Moreland I felt that the audience came to reflect and quietly relate through the words of a man who speaks truthfully of life. Good, bad, or straight up “fucked up” as Will so eloquently put it. If you see John Moreland coming to town, book the date and bring the feels and a stiff drink. I’ll be there whiskey in hand, and may or may not be crying. It’s casual.