John Morel is characterised as a songwriter’s songwriter. He is largely self-performed and self-produced, making music that is influenced by his Oklahoma roots and having released a constant stream of records – in 2011 he released two full length albums and two EPs, and has gone on to release many more. Singing directly from his heart, with no restraint and filter, he cities Steve Earle as his ‘gateway’ to folk music and switched genres from hardcore to folk when he heard Earle’s song ‘Rich Man’s War’. He’s received high praise for his work, with American television host and political commentator Rachel Maddow saying – if American music business made any sense, guys like John Moreland would be household names.
He writes with simple eloquence about love and faith and isolation, the human condition and life itself. In 2015, Moreland released High on Tulsa Heat, his third full-length solo record release. It was produced by Moreland and features Jesse Aycock, John Calvin Abney, Chris Foster, Jared Tyler, and Kierston White.
In 2017, Moreland released his seventh album, Big Bad Luv, on 4AD, the title being a nod to the book of that name by Larry Brown. The record is the first where Moreland recorded with a full band. Musicians from the bands Dawes (Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith) and Shovels And Rope (Carrie Ann Hearst and Michael Trent) contributed vocals.
Now in its fifth year, River Town brings the music of America’s heartland to the south west in a summer celebration of roots and Americana music. With a vibrant programme of blues, bluegrass, country and gospel, 2019’s series is packed full of performances from global icons and rising stars.
In 2019 the River Town series takes place at venues across Bristol including St George’s
Bristol, The O2 Academy, SWX, The Winston Theatre at Bristol University SU and The Crofters Rights,
and also makes its first foray into Bath with two performances at The Forum. With artists including k.d. lang, Lucinda Williams, The Shires, The Mavericks, Keb’ Mo’ and Jerron ‘Blind Boy’ Paxton, it’s the most ambitious programme yet.
River Town began in 2015 under the banner of Bristol Americana Weekend and under a co-producing partnership between Colston Hall and St George’s Bristol presented Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, Larkin Poe, Police Dog Hogan, Dan Penn & Spooner Oldham and many more outstanding artists of American roots music.
The festival returned after wide-spread acclaim in 2016 to feature Elvis Costello & The Imposters, Mary Chapin Carpenter and the now internationally famous The White Buffalo.
In 2017 we launched the festival for a third year under the new name of River Town and showcased some of the finest blues, gospel, country and bluegrass, from across the pond and closer to home in Colston Hall, St George’s Bristol and for the first time in O2 Academy. Three UK greats – Paul Carrack, Nick Lowe and Andy Fairweather Low – joined forces in a rare trio performance that celebrated their shared love of American R&B, soul and country. The compelling singer songwriter Martha Wainwright performed along with R&B powerhouse, gospel legend and civil rights icon Mavis Staples. Plus performances by duo The Shires with crossover stars Ward Thomas brought country-pop to Bristol.
In 2018 the festival expanded across the city as part of our Colston Hall Presents programme, showcasing events taking place in venues across Bristol during the Hall’s Transformation project. In it’s fourth iteration River Town’s line-up featured music icons Graham Nash and Rosanne Cash alongside The Barr Brothers, Steve Earle & The Dukes, The White Buffalo.