On John Moreland ‘s fifth solo record, aptly titled LP5, he takes an exploratory dive into working with an outside producer for the first time in his solo career. His producer selection in Matt Pence (Jason Isbell, The Breeders) fits like a glove as the production and songwriting elements that were already a strong suit of Moreland’s repertoire really shine on the album. Moreland recently said in an interview regarding his producer choice that, “I wouldn’t say that he pushed me into trying anything that I didn’t already want to do, but I think I came in with a lot of ideas that I found interesting but didn’t know how to execute. Matt was great at expanding on those things.” This American singer-songwriter from Tulsa, Oklahoma, has never been a stranger to writing great roots rock songs that feel as genuine and as warm as the singer’s personality. LP5 is by no means a departure from his already great sound, he expands upon it with more textured musical elements to give these songs a little more life.
Starting this collection of songs with “Harder Dreams” is a perfect way to re-introduce himself to his audience that appears to be growing by the day. The elements that producer Matt Pence likely encouraged Moreland to try on this opener such as some layered electric guitars and drum beats over his already powerful vocals and intricately plucked acoustic guitar pay significant dividends as the track unfolds. It’s an excellent choice of a first single since you begin to hear more of these organic musical fills in each of the songs found on LP5.
Other songs like the soulful “East October” paint the picture of a man that is as authentic as a singer-songwriter can be. By that, I mean that Moreland doesn’t try to be anything he isn’t on this latest album, and that’s perfectly fine. Lyrics such as, “Tell me when and where you learned it / You built your chapel, and then you burned it / Was it Satan, or the second coming? / Who sold your bearing, the song you’re strumming,” showcase the ever-improving musicianship of Moreland.
From tender moments such as “In Times Between” with its religious lyrical imagery, to the soaring “When My Fever Breaks,” LP5 has a plethora of really cool moments where we begin to see Moreland become even more comfortable in his skin and continue to showcase that which makes him such an exceptional musician.
The back half of the record never loses its early momentum, and stays true to the overall direction found on the album. The album does get somewhat experimental on the instrumental track, “For Ichiro” that’s serves as a brief reprieve for the listener to cleanse their palette before the album closer “Let Me Be Understood.” It’s on songs like the album mentioned above ender that Moreland re-solidifies himself as one of the more exciting singer-songwriters to watch as we move into our next decade. Like a fine wine gradually aging over the years, Moreland is as consistently good as he works his way through each record with a blue-collar approach to his craft. While naysayers may say he hasn’t changed enough while working with his first outside producer in his career, I’ll leave you with this: why change a good thing when it has served you so well over time?