Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
f you didn't know any better, John Moreland would seem to have one exceedingly depressing life. Song after song from the Oklahoma native has negativity squarely within the story lines.
In his opening songs of the night, "Hang Me in the Tulsa County Stars," Moreland sings, "Never tell you what you're dying for."
Moreland, sitting on a stool armed with an acoustic guitar and hidden under a camaflouge baseball cap, occupies the territory that one used to label folk singer, but these days, he more easily fits into the Americana category.
Moreland, who played the Boston area only five months ago touring behind "High on the Tulsa Heat," is the kind of performer who makes you want to listen despite/because of the subject matter.
He has an easy going, somewhat gritty, somewhat throaty delivery. Springsteen would be a reference point when talking influences. Moreland may not have the prettiest of voices - that's not a negative - but it fits with the material.
There's a lot of timbre, vibrancy and command in his vocals.
And some keen songwriting as well, such as "we did rebellion what justice we could" on "Blacklist."
Moreland looks back at his high school years in "Your Spell" with thoughts of "prom kings and queens," closing with the lines "And all those pretty girls who looked like movie stars / They look pretty ordinary, 28 years old / Checking out at Walmart with babies in their arms.,"
Moreland encored with a stirring version of Springsteen's "Thunder Road." He did the song justice. Not so different perhaps from Springsteen, but stripped down, it put the emphasis right where Moreland wanted it - on the vocals.
For all the dourness of the songs, Moreland was far from a depressing performer. While not engaging the audience of about 100 all that often, he knew his way around a humorous line or two.
Moreland remains depressing - song-wise anyway - but he is a high quality artist, who has deserved the praise thrust upon him. One only wonders what would happen if life picked up for Moreland.
Aubrie Sellers opened for Moreland in a sterling set in her Boston debut. Sellers is not even releasing her debut album until late January, but she amply displayed her considerable abilities.
First off is her exceedingly pretty sounding voice. If you closed your eyes, one would think that Sellers sounded like the second coming of Lee Ann Womack ("Loveless Rolling Stone"). In fact, that would not be a surprise because Womack is her mother. The connection could be a blessing or a cruse, but Seller is making it a huge blessing.
Sellers' confidence and comfort on stage (the closing "Till You Come Back") was quite apparent, although she has toured very little.
Sellers also happens to have written a bunch of quality songs ranging from country to more rocking numbers. She was aided only by an electric guitarist, putting the emphasis more squarely on her vocals.
And with Sellers owning great vocals, quality songs and stage presence, Sellers has the package - even at this early stage in her career.