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Snapshots: John Moreland @ The Miracle Theatre — 5/7/24

Hailing from Tulsa, Oklahoma, Americana singer-songwriter John Moreland recently visited The Miracle Theatre in DC for a show, and Steve Satzberg was there to photograph the concert!

The following article is adapted from a press release.

In April, John released Visitor, a new full-length album.

After an impressive 2010s run of albums that earned him a devoted fanbase, accolades from outlets like The New York Times, Fresh Air, and Pitchfork, and a place in the upper echelon of modern Americana singer-songwriters, John Moreland has already taken two unexpected turns this decade, both of which highlight his fierce artistic independence.

First, he released a brilliant and sonically layered folk-electronica meditation on modern alienation, 2022’s Birds In The Ceiling, that took some of his fans by surprise. Then, after wrapping up a difficult tour behind that record in November 2022, he stopped working entirely. He took an entire year off from playing shows and didn’t use a smartphone for six months.

“At the end of that year, I was just like ‘Nobody call me’. I needed to not do anything for a while and just process,” Moreland said. After nearly a decade in the limelight, constantly jostled by the expectations of his audience, the music industry, and anonymous strangers online, he carved out some time to rest, heal, and reflect for the first time.

The result of that unplugged year at home is 2024’s Visitor, a folk-rock record that is intimate, immediate, deeply thoughtful, and catchy as hell. Moreland recorded the album at his home in Bixby, Oklahoma, in only 10 days, playing nearly every instrument himself (his wife Pearl Rachinsky sang on one song, and his longtime collaborator John Calvin Abney contributed a guitar solo), as well as engineering and mixing the album. “Simplicity and immediacy felt very important to the process,” he said.

Moreland begins the album where he began his year-long process of healing: doomscrolling past images of political turmoil, war, and environmental destruction, in a trio of surprisingly hooky folk songs that address present-day social realities more directly than any previous John Moreland songs. On opening track “The Future Is Coming Fast”, Moreland describes the perpetually logged-on life in a time of rolling catastrophe over gentle fingerpicking: “The news keeps steady coming in / Our condition shows its teeth again / A nightmare we all thought would end.”

Stream “The Future Is Coming Fast” by John Moreland on YouTube:

John Moreland is known for writing lines that hit you in the gut, but many of the best moments on Visitor are more subtle. The significance of one of the record’s best lines, from “The More You Say, The Less It Means,” may take multiple listens to fully sink in: “Some folks say and some folks know”. This line sums up John Moreland’s worldview very neatly. It lays out the dichotomy of truth and lies that Moreland has spent his entire career examining, but now more elegantly than ever.

On the one hand, there are people who constantly talk (or sing, or write, or post online) without deep thought or reflection – often irresponsibly, even dangerously, and for personal gain. These are the “weary worn-out fools” and “famous false prophets” he lambasted on In The Throes, or the subject of “One Man Holds The World Hostage” on Visitor.

And on the other hand, there are folks who know — those who commit themselves to the pursuit of truth and wisdom, and who only say things when they fully know them to be true. In Moreland’s book, the artist’s true calling is to be one of the latter – the “folks who know”. While John Moreland has already earned a spot in the pantheon of the great singer-songwriters of his generation, Visitor confirms his place in that much loftier Hall Of Fame.

Here are some photos of John Moreland performing at The Miracle Theatre in DC on May 7, 2024. All pictures copyright and courtesy of Steve Satzberg.

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