Few people would know it now, but John Moreland‘s Oklahoma origins began in punk and hardcore bands. He even released a couple of punk albums with his Black Gold Band, with Things I Can’t Control being a collaboration with legendary punk producer and guitarist Stephen Egerton (Descendents, All). Since those early days, however, he has proven himself one of the most heartbreaking writers in Americana. His five solo records are filled with soul-stirring odes to rural America, love and love lost.
Moreland has cemented his reputation as a “musician’s musician” — that is, even in the instance that you haven’t yet heard his music, your favorite artists probably love Moreland’s work. Over the course of his solo career, he’s shared the stage with artists like Jason Isbell, Lucero and Patti Griffin, and he’s been featured on numerous festival bills with the best of the genre. Moreland’s music is usually acoustic, but he did recruit a full band for his fourth solo record, Big Bad Luv, in 2017. That group featured Griffin and Taylor Goldsmith from Dawes, along with Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent from Shovels and Rope.
When taking a look at Moreland’s entire catalog, it can be easy to get lost in a lot of sad songs. That’s what he does best, and he writes a lot of them. But as we focus on his five solo records for this list, there’s plenty of upbeat tracks included to get any listener hooked.
Here are The Boot‘s picks for John Moreland’s ten best songs, so far: