John Moreland: The Soundtrack To Your Hidden Grief

It’s not fair to say every song that roots songwriting master John Moreland puts into the world is tinged with sadness and a palpable gravity. And yet, whether or not you’re seeing his big presence in person or hearing his deep and tender voice that can somehow cut through any loud bar like a laser to the heart – fans have been coming back to join Moreland in processing whatever grief they may be going through for a decade. His newest Visitor captures our unique American windswept loneliness in a way that only he can. 

A song like “Gentle Violence” off the new LP is everything John does best – kernels of Prine-approved lyrics that seem to stick to your ears like tiny knives, reminding us that he always prefers to tour and write alone, processing pain with silence as his forever companion. And while he’s happily married now (his wife joins him on the road as his tour manager), in 2022 Moreland almost checked out and didn’t come back – stepping away from playing and displaying himself hundreds of days a year for people to sing along to cathartic heartbreakers like “You Don’t Care Enough For Me To Cry” that have become Americana hits – for a chance to recharge and clear his brain from the internet’s growing shadows. 

The time away was tough but worth it – Visitor has a renewed clear-eyed power that shines in songs like the opener “The Future Is Coming Fast” – maybe it shows remnants of his punk-rock origins too. Most country-roots artists don’t have the cajones to talk about climate change or addiction or grief but for Moreland who grew up idolizing Steve Earle – there is freedom and joy in mining the darkness. People come to Moreland’s hushed concerts to feel something – and listening to Visitor makes me grateful that Moreland is here to help us cope with whatever we happen to be feeling right about now.