Doc Roc Presents
The Dirty River Boys
John Moreland, The Roosevelts
423 N Main St.
Tulsa, OK, 74103
This event is all ages
The Dirty River Boys
The Dirty River Boys are paving their own road as they travel it. They are a testament to the idea that "if you can dream it, you can do it," moving with determination ever closer to the light. Above all is their belief in their music. It motivates them and provides exultation for each member, as well as for the audiences who have become fans by the force field the band creates in live performance.
Steely intention aside, there is a magic to being in the right place with the right stuff at the right time. Home in El Paso, the Dirty River Boys yearned to make music the centerpiece of their lives. Then they played their very first Austin gig, a happy hour set at hipster haunt, Lustre Pearl. The music they presented was energetic and infectious, though stripped down acoustic. The joy was unmistakable. And a new path with exciting possibilities was being born. The band migrated to Austin shortly thereafter, where they thrive amidst the other musicians in town, and love the strong sense of community they found. "Being in Austin, with so many great bands, it makes you up your game."
Travis Stearns and Nino Cooper met in the music scene in El Paso. They started gigging every once in a while, while they waited patiently for the day they could dedicate themselves to music 24/7. The Dirty River Boys trio formed 3 years ago, when Marco Gutierrez quit his job and school to join the band. "We had to go against full bands in El Paso, us with three people with acoustic instruments. It shows if you are consistent and serious about your music, you can really make it. We put our hearts out there every night. People see that." They added an upright bass player about a year and a half ago. Colton James joined for a 90 minute set at the River Road Icehouse. It was a trial by fire and a foursome was forged.
The new album, Science Of Flight, was recorded at Yellow Dog Studio in South Austin, Texas. Marco, Nino, Travis and CJ put aside just five days for the process. They played everything on the album themselves, only tapping on the legendary Kim Deschamps to lay down pedal steel. Expect surprises; Wurlitzer, marching drum sounds, train whistles, a rattlesnake. The band was mindful of their ability to recreate the sounds on stage in the live environment. The Dirty River Boys are seemingly always on the road, having logged 200,000 miles in the van, though thankfully, the rattlesnake is not a traveling companion.
Science of Flight has been described by The Dirty River Boys as Western, Fat, and Rock and Roll. It touches on myriad emotions with gentle harmonies that shimmer with beauty, acoustic rave-ups, and hook driven tunes. "This time, we made a record. We build it, recording the parts ourselves. This is a band record. We are really excited about it."
The replay of John Moreland’s network television debut is…glorious and affirming and a sucker punch. He is announced by Stephen Colbert, lights dissolve, and the camera slowly focuses on the person midway across the unadorned stage, revealing him beneath muted blue lights.
He is a big man.
Seated, alone, cradling his acoustic guitar.
He looks like nobody who is famous.
Then he begins to sing, to caress the song “Break My Heart Sweetly,” and all that remains is to whisper, “Oh, my god.”
In Colbert’s studio everybody stood, like they were in church.
Big Bad Luv is the record John Moreland made after, after everything in his life changed. For the better.
He sings in one of those accents from flyover country that’s impossible to locate and implausible to mimic. (Texas, by way of Northern Kentucky, but mostly Tulsa, as it happens.) He sings directly from his heart, with none of the restraint and filters and caution the rest of us would apply for public protection. He sings with resolute courage.
And writes. Writes with simple eloquence about love and faith and isolation; the human condition; what every song and poem and novel is about, at the core: Life.
“Break My Heart Sweetly” came from his second solo album, released in 2013 and titled In the Throes. High on Tulsa Heat, released through Thirty Tigers, landed him on Colbert’s stage (that’s the LP Colbert held up). Song placements on “Sons of Anarchy,” an emerging artist nomination from the Americana Music Association.
Enough sales to compel Moreland to give up his DIY label operation, and sign with 4AD. “It grew to the point where I couldn’t really handle everything myself,” he says. “Even with a manager and a small team, I came to the conclusion that I’d like to play music and not worry about the other stuff.”
Enough success to buy a measure of peace, and not more pain. “I expected to just play in the corner of the bar and have people not really pay attention, make $100, go home and go to work the next morning, doing something I didn’t like,” Moreland says. “So, yeah, I didn’t really expect to be here. But, then, on the other hand, I did. I feel like I’m good enough to be here. And I’ve always been confident, even when I probably shouldn’t have been. I knew I was an outsider. I didn’t have a lot of faith in the music industry to let me in. But I guess they have. To some extent. That’s what I hoped for, but I wasn’t sure that would be how it worked.”
“In churches learning how to hate yourself/Ain’t grace a wretched old thing” he sings, the song called “Ain’t We Gold.” Big Bad Luv is unmistakably a rock ‘n’ roll record. If, that is, one understands the term to include Ray Wylie Hubbard, John Hiatt, and Lucero. Or The Band, maybe. Insistent songs, coming from a voice as elegant as unfinished barn wood, songs which insist upon their words being heard.
His fourth solo album, not discounting two records with the Black Gold Band and a third with the Dust Bowl Souls. Nor discounting early excursions into hardcore which were not youthful indiscretions but crucial training in the emotional honesty of confessional songwriting. A rock album, to be performed by a rock band. A partial break with the solitude of solo touring.
“Two or three years ago,” Moreland says, “it would have been impossible to picture touring with a band. Now that’s changed. I think I’ll still do some solo or stripped down shows, but I have the option to bring a band with me if I want. Ultimately it’s just what the songs felt like they should be.”
Big Bad Luv was recorded down in Little Rock, mostly with a crew of Tulsa friends: John Calvin Abney on piano and guitar, back from Tulsa Heat; Aaron Boehler on bass; Paddy Ryan on drums; Jared Tyler on dobro. And then Lucero’s Rick Steff on piano, which ended up being the catalyst for completion.
“I always start off writing whatever comes naturally,” Moreland says. “Once I’ve got seven or eight of those, then I’ll take stock and look at what I’ve got, figure out what belongs on a record together, and what might not. Then I’ll figure out what kind of songs I need.”
Three sessions over ten months, sandwiched between touring dates and life. The final sequence roughly approximating the order in which songs were written. “I chose the sequence for what I thought worked best musically,” he says, untroubled.
“Quick bursts of recording,” Moreland goes on. Gives off a quick laugh. “It’s not like we’re sitting there over-thinking the performances, I’m definitely a fan of just hit record and play it. But then there’s long stretches where I’m not in the studio, when I’m listening to what I did, asking how do I turn this into a record?”
The key turned out to be Rick Steff’s promise to record next week, even though Moreland didn’t have songs, not a one. “I went home and wrote five songs in four days and finished up,” Moreland says. Another deep, wry laugh.
Big Bad Luv is, at least by comparison…maybe…a happier record? “I don’t think I’m writing songs that are that much different,” Moreland says. “It’s always been a positive thing at heart, even if a song isn’t sunshine and rainbows. At the very least my songs have been a way to exorcise negative feelings so that I can move on. And hopefully they provide that same experience to listeners. So that’s what I’m still doing. I think it’s a positive thing. I think this record, there’s definitely a change in attitude, but it’s the same point of view.”
Oh, yeah. And Tchad Blake mixed it. “He’s also the only person I’ve ever worked with on a record whose name I can drop.”
“Slow down easy, I’ve been hauling a heavy soul,” he sings, this song titled “Slow Down Easy.” Carrying it for all of us, but no longer alone.
The Roosevelts are craftsmen, specializing in heartfelt songs with real guts. The band is breaking out of Austin, TX with their rhythmic Americana-pop.
Founders James Mason and Jason Kloess began writing songs together in Austin in 2008, having moved to the capital city from Houston and Birmingham, respectively. For years, the pair whipped up sweaty crowds in dance halls and fraternity houses with covers on the weekends to pay the bills, while building their original repertory on the side.
Inspired by the pop singer-songwriter explosion of their formative years, namely Ryan Adams and Matt Nathanson, and modern folk-rock, the duo set out to create something current and classic with The Roosevelts. Armed with an arsenal of songs, they enlisted producer Dwight Baker, who steered organic pop/rock records for Brandi Carlile, Alpha Rev, and Bob Schneider, to guide their sonic vision.
The result is the Cold Sheets EP, which will see its national release this Fall. The 6-song set tugs at the heartstrings while drummer JJ Johnson (John Mayer, Tedeschi Trucks) and bassist Dave Monsey (Fiona Apple, Edie Brickell) maintain a steady, driving pulse.
Fashion and music monthly, Tribeza, comments: Poised between the quiet tenderness of My Morning Jacket and the ballads of John Mayer, Mason and Kloess spin musical narratives of heartbreak and longing.
Adv $13, DoS $15, Door $17