Title: “Big Bad Luv”
Artist: John Moreland
Release date: 2017
Favorite track: “Latchkey Kid”
I’ve been itching to feature this title, but also nervous.
Like me, John Moreland is from Tulsa, Oklahoma. His impeccable songwriting abilities are widely recognized among Oklahoma folk (Okies), and, since this record, nationwide.
I wanted to do it justice, and the only person who could is Moreland himself. Because of this, I will share with you my favorite song lyrics instead of a song-by-song evaluation.
This record comes after two tear-jerking folk-rock albums, “In the Throes” in 2013 and “High on Tulsa Heat” in 2015. I own the latter.
Since those records released, Moreland has gotten married — which many perceive as a game changer. Admittedly, “Big Bad Luv” just isn’t quite as sad as the records before it, but it’s no motivational guidebook either. It’s just not as sad.
Moreland is done fulfilling the “poor pitiful me” stereotype of a country singer. He explained his untapped feelings of happiness in an interview with Rolling Stone.
“I’m a real person who is sad sometimes, and happy other times, and that’s how it is.”
“It Don’t Suit Me (Like Before)” best illustrates this message. The heavy anchors on Moreland’s heart don’t suit him as they once did.
Instead of steamrolling over the hearts of America, Moreland opens up the package of excitement behind what’s traditionally a four-letter word, “Luv.” “Big Bad Love,” Larry Brown’s collection of short stories from 1990, inspired the title.
Moreland even had a neon sign reading “Big Bad Luv” custom made, which is featured in the music video to “It Don’t Suit Me (Like Before).” The video also features Moreland’s wife, Pearl; the Oklahoma state flag, a nice touch if you ask me, and Moreland hitting the slot machines.
Country and rock artists, such as Jason Isbell and Miranda Lambert, have praised Moreland’s songwriting. GQ calls him the “new face of folk rock” and The New Yorker deems him “an obvious descendant of Townes Van Zandt.”
My favorite lyrics are to “Love is Not an Answer.” The first verse includes a nod to Moreland’s reputation as a depressing artist.
And I thought I was an actor
I’d let my colors show
But what if I’m just a bastard
Laying low inside your radio
— “Love is Not an Answer”
It continues to explore what love once meant for Moreland and what it might mean now.
I used to weigh the distance
I used to miss my cues
I used to say ‘I love you’
Then wonder who I’m talking to
— “Love is Not an Answer”
Another among this suitcase of lyrically strong tracks is “Lies I Chose to Believe.” The song delves into thick gray subject matter Moreland has explored before, his faith.
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
— “Lies I Chose to Believe”
My favorite song of them all features lyrics to which I can relate. “Latchkey Kid” feels like Moreland looking back at his life with a new perspective. He sings himself out of a need for validation from others.
Cause I’ve found a love that shines into my core
And I don’t feel the need to prove myself no more
And when I look into the mirror, now I see
A man I never knew that I could be
— “Latchkey Kid”
This album cover is rough-around-the-edges perfection.
The photograph of a lifted Buick against a rundown building flaunts the rustic aesthetic of the record.
Hey, I'm Savannah. I collect records, and they collect dust. Like my preferred media form, I strive to not become obsolete. I created Off the Record as a way to turn my mind inside out, into something visual and tangible. One is the loneliest number, so I asked my friends to join.