You don’t find John Moreland–he finds you, in the sneakiest of ways. Whether it’s a hat tip from Rachel Maddow or an arresting performance on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” Moreland weaves his way into the public consciousness with gorgeous tales of faith, heartbreak and loss. It’s almost impossible to listen one of his songs without feeling impacted in some way. So it’s no surprise that on his latest album, Big Bad Luv, serves this up in spades –perhaps with a little bit more optimism.

The fourth album from the Tulsa, Oklahoma native is a shift from previous records like In the Throes and High on Tulsa Heat, whose spare arrangements felt more like solitary experiences in which Moreland’s words hit like hammers in his sandpaper croon. Here, that’s still true, but these are definitely the songs of a band.

The album was recorded in Little Rock, Arkansas with John Calvin Abney on piano and guitar; Aaron Boehler on bass; Paddy Ryan on drums; Jared Tyler on dobro and Lucero’s Rick Steff on piano. This wholeness makes the album opener “Sallisaw Blue” shimmy instead of feeling like being the witness to a confessional. Songs like “Love is Not an Answer” and “It Don’t Suit Me (Like Before)” have an easy, propulsive quality that feel like feel like quiet anthems more than anything. The soulful, twangy “Slow Down Easy” sounds huge, with background vocals that feel like they will inspire crowd singalongs in a live setting.

Despite the more muscular nature of the songs on Big Bad Luv, it’s hard not to imagine what these would sound like performed by Moreland himself. It’s a formula that’s worked so well before, and with a voice and as distinct as his – it almost feels unnecessary to disrupt. The ballad “No Glory in Regret” is a rare concession – it’s just the songwriter and his guitar. It’s a gentle reminder midway through the album of what Moreland is capable of. Nevertheless, he’s a songwriter who has hit an incredible stride and deserves the victory lap in the way he seems fit.

The album’s most poignant moment comes on closer “Latchkey Kid.” Accompanied by nothing other than acoustic guitar and elegiac organ, he sings “Won’t you tell me how the story goes and goes/ I’m too lost to tell my temples from toes.” It’s unclear who he is singing to, but that sort of exhaustion and frustration and heartbreak is immediately relatable. Later, he flips it on its head: “I found a love that shines into my core/ I don’t feel the need to prove myself no more/ When I look into the mirror now I see/ The man I never knew that I could be.” The guitar stops, the organ tracks out. Moreland sounds like he’s found some peace on the other side of the road, waiting for the rest of us to join him on his next journey.

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