John Moreland

John Moreland (9:30 PM)

Lilly Hiatt (8:30 PM)

Tue, February 23, 2016

8:00 pm

$15.00 - $17.00

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John Moreland - (Set time: 9:30 PM)
John Moreland
John Moreland Big Bad Luv

The replay of John Moreland's network television debut is…glorious and affirming and a
sucker punch. He is announced by Stephen Colbert, lights dissolve, and the camera
slowly focuses on the person midway across the unadorned stage, revealing him
beneath muted blue lights.



He is a big man.



Seated, alone, cradling his acoustic guitar.



He looks like nobody who is famous.



Then he begins to sing, to caress the song “Break My Heart Sweetly,” and all that
remains is to whisper, “Oh, my god.”



In Colbert's studio everybody stood, like they were in church.



Big Bad Luv is the record John Moreland made after, after everything in his life
changed. For the better.



He sings in one of those accents from flyover country that's impossible to locate and
implausible to mimic. (Texas, by way of Northern Kentucky, but mostly Tulsa, as it
happens.) He sings directly from his heart, with none of the restraint and filters and
caution the rest of us would apply for public protection. He sings with resolute courage.



He sings.



And writes. Writes with simple eloquence about love and faith and isolation; the human
condition; what every song and poem and novel is about, at the core: Life.



“Break My Heart Sweetly” came from his second solo album, released in 2013 and titled
In the Throes. High on Tulsa Heat, released through Thirty Tigers, landed him on
Colbert's stage (that's the LP Colbert held up). Song placements on “Sons of Anarchy,”
an emerging artist nomination from the Americana Music Association.



Enough sales to compel Moreland to give up his DIY label operation, and sign with 4AD.
“It grew to the point where I couldn't really handle everything myself,” he says. “Even
with a manager and a small team, I came to the conclusion that I'd like to play music
and not worry about the other stuff.”



Enough success to buy a measure of peace, and not more pain. “I expected to just play
in the corner of the bar and have people not really pay attention, make $100, go home
and go to work the next morning, doing something I didn't like,” Moreland says. “So,
yeah, I didn't really expect to be here. But, then, on the other hand, I did. I feel like I'm
good enough to be here. And I've always been confident, even when I probably
shouldn't have been. I knew I was an outsider. I didn't have a lot of faith in the music
industry to let me in. But I guess they have. To some extent. That's what I hoped for, but
I wasn't sure that would be how it worked.”






“In churches learning how to hate yourself/Ain't grace a wretched old thing” he sings,
the song called “Ain't We Gold.” Big Bad Luv is unmistakably a rock 'n' roll record. If,
that is, one understands the term to include Ray Wylie Hubbard, John Hiatt, and Lucero.
Or The Band, maybe. Insistent songs, coming from a voice as elegant as unfinished
barn wood, songs which insist upon their words being heard.



His fourth solo album, not discounting two records with the Black Gold Band and a third
with the Dust Bowl Souls. Nor discounting early excursions into hardcore which were
not youthful indiscretions but crucial training in the emotional honesty of confessional
songwriting. A rock album, to be performed by a rock band. A partial break with the
solitude of solo touring.



“Two or three years ago,” Moreland says, “it would have been impossible to picture
touring with a band. Now that's changed. I think I'll still do some solo or stripped down
shows, but I have the option to bring a band with me if I want. Ultimately it's just what
the songs felt like they should be.”



Big Bad Luv was recorded down in Little Rock, mostly with a crew of Tulsa friends: John
Calvin Abney on piano and guitar, back from Tulsa Heat; Aaron Boehler on bass; Paddy
Ryan on drums; Jared Tyler on dobro. And then Lucero's Rick Steff on piano, which
ended up being the catalyst for completion.



“I always start off writing whatever comes naturally,” Moreland says. “Once I've got
seven or eight of those, then I'll take stock and look at what I've got, figure out what
belongs on a record together, and what might not. Then I'll figure out what kind of songs
I need.”



Three sessions over ten months, sandwiched between touring dates and life. The final
sequence roughly approximating the order in which songs were written. “I chose the
sequence for what I thought worked best musically,” he says, untroubled.



“Quick bursts of recording,” Moreland goes on. Gives off a quick laugh. “It's not like
we're sitting there over-thinking the performances, I'm definitely a fan of just hit record
and play it. But then there's long stretches where I'm not in the studio, when I'm listening
to what I did, asking how do I turn this into a record?”



The key turned out to be Rick Steff's promise to record next week, even though
Moreland didn't have songs, not a one. “I went home and wrote five songs in four days
and finished up,” Moreland says. Another deep, wry laugh.



Big Bad Luv is, at least by comparison…maybe…a happier record? “I don't think I'm
writing songs that are that much different,” Moreland says. “It's always been a positive
thing at heart, even if a song isn't sunshine and rainbows. At the very least my songs
have been a way to exorcise negative feelings so that I can move on. And hopefully
they provide that same experience to listeners. So that's what I'm still doing. I think it's a
positive thing. I think this record, there's definitely a change in attitude, but it's the same
point of view.”



Oh, yeah. And Tchad Blake mixed it. “He's also the only person I've ever worked with
on a record whose name I can drop.”



“Slow down easy, I've been hauling a heavy soul,” he sings, this song titled “Slow Down
Easy.” Carrying it for all of us, but no longer alone.
Lilly Hiatt - (Set time: 8:30 PM)
Lilly Hiatt
ROYAL BLUE (NORMALTOWN RECORDS)
Royal Blue, the second album by East Nashville firebrand Lilly Hiatt, is about the majesty of melancholy—or, as she explains it, "accepting the sadder aspects of life and finding some peace in them." A dance between pedal steel and synths, the album examines the vagaries of love and commitment but steadfastly refuses to romanticize any notion of romance. Singing in a barbed lilt full of deep worry and gritty determination in equal measure, she conveys emotions too finely shaded to be easily named, yet will be familiar to any listener who's had their heart broken—or has broken a heart.

This is, in other words, not a well-behaved singer-songwriter album. Instead, it's feisty and rough-around-the-edges, full of humor and bite and attitude from a woman who proclaims, "I'd rather throw a punch than bat my eye." Royal Blue hints at autobiography without sounding self-absorbed, as Lilly transforms a rough patch of life into smart, sturdy, sometimes even hilarious songs that don't sit squarely in any one genre. Instead, Royal Blue reaches out boldly and playfully into many different sounds and styles: Austin folk rock, Pacific Northwest indie, pre-Oasis Britpop, New York punk ca. 1977. There are '90s alt guitars and '00 indie synths, some twang and some Neko Case and Kim Deal.

Setting the tone for the album, "Far Away" marries a shimmery Cure synth theme to a steady rock-and-roll backbeat, as Lilly explains the devastating realities of a love gone sour: "I have never felt more far away than when you were right here." When she delivers a volley of ooo-ooo-ooohs on the coda, it's hard to tell whether she's lamenting her loss or proclaiming her freedom. Even at its most personal, Royal Blue remains complicated and often contradictory. The surging surf-country number "Machine" hints at rebellious adolescence while "Somebody's Daughter" is a nod to Lilly's songwriting father, John Hiatt.

Lilly's songs are equal parts romantic autopsy and acid kiss-off to a dismissive lover. He shows up again on the fidgety "Get This Right," with its insistent drum patter, churning guitars, and anthemic chorus. "When you turn your lamp off, please hear my sweet, soft voice," Lilly sings over the gentle acoustic strums and Doppler-effect synths on "Your Choice." Then she adds, with startling finality, "You made your choice." Royal Blue is not your typical break-up album, though. Lilly would rather rock than mope.

To say she comes by it naturally shouldn't imply that it's all easy for her. Her father is a famously eclectic singer-songwriter whose tunes have been covered by Emmylou Harris, Nick Lowe, Willie Nelson, and Bob Dylan, among others. Living just outside of Nashville, he provides gentle counsel and sage advice to his daughter. "I'd be a fool not to take it," she says. "We have a really good relationship, and there's a lot of trust there, so I feel comfortable talking to him about certain songwriting predicaments. I played him some songs I was trying to write, and he said, these are really good, but it sounds like you're trying to do something different. You don't have to come up with special chords or anything. Why don't you just be you? That was simple advice, but good advice."

Lilly being herself means playing songs that are sharply witty, brutally frank, and musically adventurous. In that regard, her backing band has proved crucial in helping her realize her full potential as a songwriter and performer. The group has been playing and touring with her for years, and they played on her 2012 debut, Let Down. "We're tougher now with a new confidence in our playing," she says of the band, which includes Beth Finney on lead guitar, Jake Bradley on bass, Luke Schneider on pedal steel guitar and Jon Radford on drums.

It helps that they all share a love of '90s alt-rock bands, which comes through in the distressed guitars, the urgent backbeats, and the post-punk synths. Lilly cites the Pixies and the Breeders as influences on this record, as well as Dinosaur Jr. and—her all-time faves—Pearl Jam. The group recorded these dozen songs at Playground Sound, a small studio located in producer Adam Landry's backyard in Nashville.

"I know Adam and am a fan of his work," Lilly says. "I also knew he did analog recording, which excited me. I wanted to try that." She chose Landry because he was a versatile rock producer who has worked with Deer Tick, T. Hardy Morris of Dead Confederate, and Hollis Brown. "Sometimes I think it might be easy to take my songs to Twang Town, if someone wanted to, but they're not country songs. I had a feeling Adam would bring out other things in the music. Which is exactly what he did."

In the studio, Adam credits Lilly with being game for anything: "She would be playing electric guitar with her band, and I'd be in the control room running the tape machine. I had an old KORG polysynth plugged into a Memory Man. I reached over and started playing it, and she didn't miss a beat. She'd just go with it. She trusted me and was open-minded, and I think that helped create that sort of late '80s/early '90s vibe on the record." But it all comes down to the songs themselves. "A killer backing track and a killer vocal can be totally ruined by really stupid lyrics," says Adam, who was drawn to the stark candor of Lilly's songwriting. "She's just real honest. That's the big thing here."

"That's the only way I know how to write as of now," she admits. "Maybe that will change, because writing always does, and maybe I'll learn to take myself out of it a little more and embellish the details. But right now I don't know any other way. I hope people don't think, wow, she really has some issues. But you know what? If they do, that's fine, too. I have a hard time saying a lot of things in life, so it's easier to do it through the song. It's a healthy coping process for me."
Venue Information:
Troubadour
9081 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA, 90069
http://www.troubadour.com/

All lineups and times subject to change