Americana songwriter MoeDeLL is one of those guys who you can tell loves music with an unending, undiluted passion. He plays any chance he gets, and is authentic to the core.
After years of writing and touring, fans are excited for today’s release of his fourth album, Ain’t That Something, an 11-track feat that he wrote solo and co-produced with percussionist and background vocalist Mike Lardy.
A southern Virginia native, MoeDeLL has since relocated to the Minneapolis area, where he is an active part of the Midwest music scene. He is often pulled away from his home base, however, to keep up with his grueling 250-show-per-year pace (or at least it was before the pandemic). His hard work has paid off, though, earning him nominations for Songwriter of the Year and Americana Artist of the Year at the 2020 Midwest Country Music Association Awards.
The album opens up with the cleverly titled, “B.O.P.,” an acronym not only true to the happy-go-lucky and slightly cheeky sound about it, but one that stands for “busted old promise.” With the same sort of shameless enjoyment and bubbliness of a beloved drinking song, MoeDeLL complains how that busted old promise is no more than a “bunch of junk all falling apart, and it ain’t worth a damn—it don’t run anymore.”
This is followed with the darker “Abandoned Dreams,” which is an early indicator of the dynamic range found throughout the album. The eery, reverberant distance of his voice paired with a steady clapping in the background makes the song almost feel like it’s in a live setting, transporting the listener to an intimate venue with chairs drawn up to listen to stories by firelight.
Storytelling is a consistent strength between his songs. “Cold Side of the Pillow,” which was the second single to precede the album, spins image after image, from mowing the lawn to long windy roads, guiding the listener along with him. The cheerful guitar lays a background for the sleepy whine of the dobro, played by Chris O’Brien, to pluck away between lines, unhurriedly zigzagging its own melodies.
On the energetic end of the album’s spectrum is the folky, Wild-West-feeling “Fire.” The thrilling story within the song (“ain’t no saving me now, got lost in the flames, come hell or high water, ain’t no stopping now”) accentuates the excited, anticipatory frenzy stirred up by the peppy instrumental, a musical representation of a criminal on the run, constantly looking over their shoulder and their heart pounding relentlessly in their chest.
The upbeat streak continues with “Hummin’ Along,” which was the first single from Ain’t That Something. Written in March 2020, when the recent lockdown made everyone feel trapped, this song was MoeDeLL’s response because he felt like “there had to be a light somewhere. A positivity.” It was a touching addition to include a series of in-color home videos of presumed friends and families waving from their porches at the end of the mostly-black-and-white music video. Despite the somewhat somber background behind the single, its upbeat rhythm certainly invites listeners to follow the theme of the title and sway, sing, or hum along.
“The Trucker Song” brings MoeDeLL’s signature campfire atmosphere to an additional level with another of his story-rich tales. The song captures the patience, ruggedness, and adventurous spirit commanded by long hours on the open road while progressively developing the character of the truck driver himself.
To close the collection out, “All Hell’s Broke Loose Again” returns to a moodier tone and provides a stripped-back addition of MoeDeLL solo with his guitar. This is often how he will perform, unless he is joined by bassist Tim Sunde, who also plays throughout Ain’t That Something, or they appear as a trio with dobroist O’Brien. The only other sound on the track is an inclusion of some insects buzzing and chirping which hang onto a suspenseful chord that together fade out to finish the album.
As a testament to just how impactful MoeDeLL’s music is within his area, both release shows tonight and tomorrow featuring Barbaro at The Listening Room in Braham, Minnesota, are sold out- but expect to see him in a town near you sometime soon.