John Moreland High On Tulsa Heat on LP
Some days, being John Moreland has to hurt. As others bury experiences and stifle regrets, Moreland pokes old wounds until you’re sure they’ve got to be bleeding again. It’s painful. But in Moreland’s care, it’s also breathtakingly beautiful. With the release of his highly anticipated third solo album High on Tulsa Heat, he offers another round of the lyrics-first, gorgeously plaintive songs that have earned him devoted listeners across the country.
When Moreland released In the Throes in June of 2013, the album didn’t just charm listeners - it stunned them. American Songwriter proclaimed that “those not familiar with the Oklahoma City singer-songwriter should remedy that pronto,” while No Depression declared the collection “isn't so much songwriting as alchemy with words and music.” If In the Throes ignited Moreland’s 2013 summer, FX’s Sons of Anarchy poured gasoline all over the fire that fall. The hit series featured three Moreland-penned and performed gems: “Heaven,” off of his Earthbound Blues, the second of two full-length albums he released in 2011; and “Gospel” and “Your Spell,” both from In the Throes.
When he decided to head back to the studio to record the follow-up to In the Throes, Moreland admits he felt more pressure than in previous sessions. “I just tried to ignore it because I figured it’s probably not a good way to make a record,” he says. “But yeah. It was in the back of my mind.” High expectations must agree with him. High on Tulsa Heat is a triumphant sequel, pulsing with the sharply drawn imagery and cutting vulnerability that his listeners have come to expect. Produced by Moreland, the 10-song collection features a strong cast of players including Jesse Aycock (Hard Working Americans, Secret Sisters), John Calvin Abney (Samantha Crain, The Damn Quails), Jared Tyler (Malcolm Holcombe), Chris Foster, and Kierston White.
Stripped-down arrangements rooted in gritty rock and roll punctuate and cushion Moreland’s compositions. Tracks including “Hang Me in the Tulsa County Stars,” “Heart’s Too Heavy,” and “Cleveland County Blues” set the tone, trafficking in relentless honesty and folk. Buoyant lament “Sad Baptist Rain” tackles internal conflict. If “Sad Baptist Rain” is about self-acceptance, “White Flag” warns of self-destruction. “American Flags in Black and White,” grapples with nostalgia, and while Moreland initially seems to condemn it, he ends up acknowledging its comfort, framing the past as everyone’s guilty pleasure. The album also includes the first recording of live show staple “Cherokee.” Based on a vivid dream, the song explores longing, shame, forgiveness, and love.
“You Don’t Care for Me Enough to Cry” proves once again that Moreland does intoxicatingly sad as well or better than anyone, but the concluding title track rollicks victoriously, relishing the thought of a safe place - an idea Moreland says serves as a loose theme for the album. “A home is something I’ve really wanted,” he says. “But that means you have to figure out what that really means and what it is. The record is about those questions.”
John Moreland High On Tulsa Heat Track Listing:
1. Hang Me in the Tulsa County Stars
2. Heart's Too Heavy
3. Cleveland County Blues
4. White Flag
5. Sad Baptist Rain
7. Losing Sleep Tonight
8. American Flags in Black & White
9. You Don't Care for Me Enough to Cry
10. High on Tulsa Heat