Music Review: Big Bad Luv
I have not felt like getting into much new music in the last couple of years. I have been content with what I already had on hand, and not had the energy to go see live shows, which is a large part of how I find new artists (a thoughtfully chosen opener goes a long way!), and mainly where I buy records.
I have heard of John Moreland before. He moves in circles I listen to, he comes up on Pandora and Spotify, and I've always liked what I heard, but this album arrested me like nothing else I've heard in years. By the first listen, I'd saved half the songs, by the second, I'd saved all of them-but by then I'd bought the album.
You got your honest intuition
You got your cigarette smoke
And I’m all your oldest fears, the black mark on last year
But I got the hope you let me hold
So let them judge and shove us under
And let them do the devil’s work
Let them calculate the crimes in all our broken rhymes
But let us find the heaven following the hurt
Someone I recommended the album to asked me what genre it was, and I had no idea. It would be catchy on its own (and would appeal to fans of several different styles), but then there are these gut-wrenching lyrics.
HOW DOES HE DO THIS? How does this song written by someone else for someone else make MY stomach feel funny?
So bring my all your questions
Bring me all your doubts
Don’t let me meet the devil
That I sang those songs about
Cause the hounds of youth are howling
And you’re all I’ve got to trust
It's summer and I'm driving a lot, there have been too many late nights and too much socializing, I'm happy, stressed, tired, alternately hopeful about the future and convinced nothing's ever going to work out and way too sad. Transitions are draining, and there have been a half-dozen of them already this year. I just turned 30 and I want to be more gracious, kinder, handle situations with aplomb. Meanwhile what's actually happening is that for every one thing I figure out, two fall apart.
Talking with your mouth full of fury
And findin' ghosts inside the doubt
Runnin' from the Armageddon jury
Born to put your love on trial
In the car, I listen to audiobooks-mostly classics, about fictional people in other places in bygone times. It gets me out of my own head, which I need sometimes. And I pray because there's just too much going on and not enough time. And when the audiobooks are exhausting and I am prayed out, I put on music, which more often than not is this record.
So here I stand, right before you
Waiting for my turn to tow the line
Don’t let me die in California
While I’m dragging all these rivers in my mind
I don't have a solution. I put the windows down and keep an eye out for cops and deer while the rest of me is on autopilot. I wonder about the choice of cowbell on this one song. No, it's fine, it works. My life is the equivalent of tripping over your own feet WHILE having one of your feet in your mouth. It's fine, I'm fine, everything's fine. I think about 3 summers ago, 2 summers ago, 1 summer ago, and how each of them feels like a lifetime from here and now.
Well folks like me and you
We don’t know how to call a truce
And when we can’t lose the fight, we just lose touch
So we sit comparing scars
Strumming on the stars
And leaning on the oldest, closest crutch
Don’t let me turn to dust to turn a phrase
Could you help me wash these years off of my face?
Life is pretty good, actually, I rationalize to myself as I lie awake with one of these songs stuck in my head. There are little things to look forward to - coffee. If you make it through the night you get coffee. My teeth aren't imploding from stress anymore. My neck isn't as bad as it used to be. I have a little more support at work, which is great because I get a few screamers per week. Church is good. I am reasonably healthy. I can pay my bills and meet most of my social obligations. I try not to think too much about adopting puppies or babies or both.
Everything might work out fine, and if it doesn't, I'll be okay, right? I turn the music up and roll the windows down all the way and hope the night air keeps me from falling asleep on the way home.
Well I’ve gone and lost my faith in photographs
Cursed those martyrs that mark my past
And I long for a day when we’ll look back and laugh
About all this
But good luck finding your peace of mind
Being born into these brutal times
And these days I don’t pray when I close my eyes
I just bite my tongue a bit harder
Chris Stapleton (whose first album I enjoyed) and Jason Isbell (whose work with the Drive-By Truckers and whose two solo albums I loved) both came out with new albums around the same time this album came out. And they fell flat with me compared to this. There is an earnestness to Moreland's writing that is unparalleled. The production is tasteful, there is diversity in the lyrics and melodies, and ultimately, he sounds like himself-it's a gift. I had no expectations going into it but wound up feeling like I will be listening to this record for the rest of my life.