John Moreland “Hang Me in the Tulsa County Stars” Live at SXSW

Hang Me in the Tulsa County Stars – Youtube

There is hope.

There’s a canard that modern music is a cornucopia of vapid millennial popsters and I must admit they get more than their fair share of attention, but bubbling under there’s soul-fulfilling stuff that has gotten a push but just hasn’t landed on your radar screen yet, like John Moreland.

It’s not that I didn’t know him, it’s just that he hadn’t reached me yet. There wasn’t the right song, the right performance, and then someone sent me this two year old video and I got it immediately, I was closed.

I couldn’t believe it was him playing the guitar, it sounded like a record, like there was someone off-screen picking, because the sound was so PERFECT, so EXQUISITE, it makes me feel warm and fuzzy in a world full of zeros and ones where everything is slick and shiny but I’m imperfect.

But it is him. How long has he been doing this? Almost twenty years professionally, to some acclaim but little breakthrough.

But that’s today’s paradigm, you decide on your direction and if you’re not blown off course by practicalities, like money and family, you stay the course and get better and see what happens.

Don’t confuse this with the tireless self-promoters, the social network wizards, the true geniuses let their work speak for them, they let their work lead, because talk is cheap but talent is not, because when we see the real thing we know it, it’s just that today we’re bombarded with messages and it’s so unlike before, in the seventies when there were fewer than five thousand records per year and you could get on the radio, get in the press, and people would know who you were and give you a chance and in the eighties and nineties when you got on MTV and were either a hero or a zero, either your video was played or it was not, whereas today it’s a tsunami of product and we’re all inundated with clutter looking for a way out.

Now I love the Kraftwerk-influenced sound, those who pooh-pooh electronics are missing the message, but what reaches me most is authenticity, humanity, just one person and their instrument, singing straight from the heart, especially when they wrote the song, when I can look at them and know the work speaks for them, they’re channeling it from them to me.

This is very different from movies and television. Where the actors are beautiful and famous but nothing like the characters they play. That’s why music is a hotter medium, which is why we’re so much more passionate about music.

But many will say there’s nothing to be passionate about. And the detritus/dreck percentage to great is staggering, and one gets frustrated combing through the crap. But then you find something so right you want to tell everybody about it.

Now I checked out Moreland’s new album on Spotify, it didn’t affect me quite the same way. I didn’t want the production, the steel wool in the way. But he’s feeling his oats, experimenting, and that’s okay. But I’d like to see him solo live.

Not that he’s nowhere. His songs have been in “Sons Of Anarchy,” he’s opened for Jason Isbell, it’s just that he hasn’t broken through.


P.S. Sound comes before lyrics. But there are lines in this song that resonate. Like “I want to learn exactly who you are.” That’s my goal, with EVERYBODY!

P.P.S. And musicians don’t fit in, and they channel our alienation, the concept of removing ourselves from society, being up in the sky, above it all, we resonate, we put on a record and it simulates that destination we want to go to but can’t, but can in our minds, as the music washes over us.

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