John Moreland has certainly been 'in the throes'; this record exudes painful honesty as the Oklahoman journeys for truth, purpose and redemption. It is incredible in two senses; song-writing and performance.
Moreland's lyricism is always relevant! Whether he is singing of love or God, what strikes most vividly is the truth of the song-writer's words. In the penultimate track of the album, Gospel, John sings ''I wanna wear my heart on my sleeve but be tough when I have to". This is exactly what he achieves with perfection throughout the album. My favourite line comes in Break My Heart Sweetly where Moreland sings "I should be dealing with my demons but I'm dodging them instead". His ability to lure the listener in with raw poetry is simply staggering!
What makes John's lyrics even more impressive is the way he delivers them. You'd be hard-pressed to find a line or even a single note which is not sung with the same weight of pure and honest emotion. It seems as if Moreland is living his pain all over again every time he sings his songs. It is evident that 'In the Throes' was recorded with one main aim: to deliver Moreland's message in the clearest possible way. The extremely transparent texture, made up mostly of just an acoustic guitar and vocals, and with delightful sprinklings of pedal steel, harmonica, piano and organ (the majority of which Moreland played), ensures that we are always conscious of what the Oklahoman is singing about.
It is also important to acknowledge that 'In the Throes' is not just a heartbreaker. Yes, this is the overriding feeling that we are left with - one of emotional weariness - although this is in no way a bad thing. Once Moreland has taken you down into the depths of despair with the likes of Break My Heart Sweetly and Your Spell, he will remarkably lift your spirits with the up-beat nature of Oh Julia. This is the marking of a truly great album!
'In the Throes' closes with the track Blues and Kudzu in which Moreland is 'trying to leave behind yesterday' on a Mississippi Highway. The song almost feels incomplete but perfectly epitomises the entire album with its fragile vulnerability.
With the baseless nature of contemporary popular music, the art of songwriting has been thrown aside; it's all about image these days. It seems, like Moreland sings, that nobody gives a damn about songs anymore. Well, we should, and Moreland's 'In the Throes' is the reason why!
If the only thing you do today is listen to this album, it will be a day well spent.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U42R8SfOw7M - interview with John Moreland and '3:59 AM'