When David Letterman bid farewell to the Late Show back in March, fans of folk, roots and country music panicked — as a diehard Townes Van Zandt devotee, Letterman had always been a huge proponent of anything Americana, giving crucial airtime early on to acts like Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton and Elizabeth Cook. But in the past few weeks, the show’s new host Stephen Colbert has rapidly been filling that void with guests like Margo Price, Aubrie Sellers and John Moreland — who made his late night debut last night with an emotionally riveting performance of “Break My Heart Sweetly.”
When most people make their late night debut, they bring out all the stops: large, embellished bands, flashy duds and, of course, their new singles. Moreland, whose second LP High on Tulsa Heat was one of Rolling Stone Country’s top albums of 2015, played to none of those conventions. Seated solo in his signature burgundy shirt accompanied only by his guitar and raspy howl, he performed a song not off his recent release but from 2013’s In the Throes. It’s an unconventional move few could navigate as well as Moreland, but few possess his stirring lyrical grip or gut-wrenching delivery.
Moreland is on tour through summer, with stops at South by Southwest and Bonnaroo. And with scheduled guests this week like M. Ward, Wilco and Charles Kelley, Colbert’s well on the road to keeping the Late Show a solid stronghold for Americana, roots rock and country.