John Moreland ‘In the Throes'
(Last Chance Records)
Broken Arrow singer John Moreland's new record “In the Throes” is a lot of melancholy things: a worn-out lament, a confession of sins, a plea for forgiveness. But it's one thing above all these: It's distinctly Oklahoman. Much the way Other Lives' 2011 LP “Tamer Animals” captured all the romantic beauty of our state's landscape with its nontraditional approach to orchestral arrangements, “In the Throes” tells the character of Oklahoma's people in 10 little stories that combine to tell a much larger one, accented by a mahogany acoustic guitar tone and the occasional, perfect touch of pedal steel twang.
It sounds like the world's kicked Moreland ragged, which you can glean from that great title and a lot of his earlier work. But on “In the Throes,” he tells you in a way that sounds effortless (in reality, it's hardly that easy), using the same smooth-mumbled, blue-collar language that made Bruce Springsteen famous. “I got years' worth of work / I'm runnin' low on tools / I been worshippin' the words / Of weary, worn-out fools” is an early pair of couplets from “I Need You to Tell Me Who I Am,” where Moreland gives pause between each line, letting the listener mull over the syllables like wine on the tongue.
There's a degree of vulnerability in great songwriting, and “In the Throes” finds it on every song. Moreland resists punching the listener's gut with a guitar riff like he often did in the past and instead breaks hearts by structuring quieter arrangements around these world-weary, often emotionally naked lyrics. “Break My Heart Sweetly” is just as direct and pleading as its title suggests: “I guess I can't go until you wreck me completely.”