There’s a reason we talk about a broken bone and a broken heart in the same way: While wounds heal and lovers move on, their memory lingers. Like a knee that stiffens on a rainy day, a certain scent can waft through the air and conjure up the shadows of a departed relationship, stopping us in our tracks. Love hurts and love leaves scars. Those things can fade, but they never quite go away.
Few modern songwriters are better at capturing the deep and lasting lesions from a torn romance than John Moreland — his versions of sonic heartbreak don’t just hurt, they bleed. And though there’s some healing on his newest LP, Big Bad Luv, it’s all from the perspective of a man who understands how delicate those fibers of repair actually are: On “Old Wounds,” a bruise is always a bruise, even after it withers back into the skin and disappears. But Moreland, who is now happily married, also acknowledges how pain can be a crippling crutch and that it’s okay to seek rehabilitation. “We’ll open up old wounds in celebration,” he sings, his voice profound and delicately sandpapered. “If we don’t bleed, it don’t feel like a song.” Love that causes us to ache can be hard to run away from — like a nip to the finger, that rush of adrenaline can make us feel alive. But sometimes music, and partnership, is best when it salves and sutures, not aggravates what’s already there. Maybe once we can’t see our scars, it’s okay to pretend, now and again, they were never there at all.