sat 20/07/2024

Album: John Moreland - Visitor | reviews, news & interviews

Album: John Moreland - Visitor

Album: John Moreland - Visitor

Haunted and haunting Americana

John Moreland’s Visitor: Haunting, haunted, hard to get your head around, let alone the heart

The mournful, lonesome voice of John Moreland from Bixby, Oklahoma, will be known by a few, but not many, in this country. The 12 songs on his latest album, Visitor, released on the Thirty Tigers label, should help to remedy that.

Visitor is the result of a self-imposed year of internal exile, commencing in November 2022, during which he did no shows, didn’t even use his mobile phone, and took time instead to rest and reflect, and eventually write. Visitor was recorded at home alone over ten days in late 2023, with Moreland on all instruments aside from a lead acoustic guitar on the tellingly titled “The More You Say the Less It Means”, delivered by his friend and longtime musical collaborator, songwriter John Calvin Abney. Visitor is his tenth album – Moreland released three in 2011 alone – and US TV host and political commentator Rachel Maddow has said if him: “If the American music business made any sense, guys like John Moreland would be household names.”

His last visit to these shores was back in 2018, supporting John Prine and performing at the Cambridge Folk Festival and the Black Deer festival. Cast an eye over his tour schedule online, and there’s no sign of a return this year, at least, but on the strength of this deeply soulful, reflective, insightful and often haunting set of songs, a John Moreland set is not a gig that lovers of folk and Americana would ever want to miss.

He’s an acutely good lyricist, with songs like “Ain’t Much I Can Do About It” able to touch deep chords with any listener who’s come to experience the permanence and indifference of change, its lines evoking a kind of backwoods Zen: “Some days you’re gonna have to shed a tear, Some days you’re swinging from a chandelier, well there ain’t much I can do about it.”

The slow acoustic love ballad “No Time” is a heartbreaker without any patina of sentiment. You feel the press of internal, emotional, metaphysical vistas as wide and penetrating as those Oklahoma landscapes stretching away into the far distances extending from his home town, just south of Tulsa on the banks of the Arkansas river. “The future’s coming fast, neck-deep in the past… The clock will surely call, empires will fall, my love for you is everlasting.”

It’s the closing title song, “Visitor”, that cuts the deepest. It’s hard to think of a more lonesome song, its sense of dislocation, otherness, isolation feels all-enveloping, as if the self was some kind of Faraday cage, closed to outside contact. It’s haunting, haunted, hard to get your head around, let alone the heart, and carries a sorrow as big as the sky. “There was a time I thought I could make the pain stop, I ran every way but forward, made a flood out of a rain drop,” he sings in the opening verse, to a spare acoustic guitar, drums and a wash of keyboards. These are songs that envelop you; that you’ll soon find yourself inhabiting and returning to, and you’ve got to hope that that Moreland will return too, and commit to being a visitor to these shores once again.

A John Moreland set is not a gig that lovers of folk and Americana would ever want to miss

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters