WILLIAM MICHAEL MORGAN’S DEBUT EP IS UNARGUABLY COUNTRY
There are voices on country radio that I listen to with a vision of the ugly stepsisters in Cinderella trying to cram their feet into a shoe that just doesn’t fit. Even using the most liberal definition of the genre, I can’t reconcile the sounds. When I first heard William Michael Morgan’s voice on Sirius XM The Highway coming out of my car speakers, there was no doubt he belonged there. The shoe, or in this case, the boot fits. I was driving in a major metropolitan area at the time, but this song, and the sound of his voice, made me feel as though I’d taken a detour down a country lane. There wasn’t a truck in sight. I pictured a young cowboy leaning on a wooden fence, daydreaming about a girl he’d met who’d changed his whole world. There was a softness in his voice and respect in the lyrics, the way country songs used to be sung when referring to women. “I Met A Girl” is a country love song evoking a simpler time, when there was no debate over the sound of country music. William Michael Morgan is a young man who’s come of age in the 21st century, but his voice is from an era past, begging to be heard again. With his debut EP, he throws his hat into the arena of famed country artists that have come before him, blazing a trail and defining the classic sound of the genre. This music leaves no doubt he intends to carry the torch.
Placing “Vinyl” as the first song on his debut record is the equivalent of Babe Ruth’s called shot over the center field fence. He leaves no doubt about the sound of the country music we’re about to hear. From the first few lines, “Vinyl” is an “instant classic.” From the sweetness of the groove to the nostalgia the lyrics refer to, it’s reminiscent of the days when girls were courted and turntables were in fashion. The guitar riff in the middle of this reminds me that William Michael isn’t just an imitation of old school country. It’s a little shot of “I might surprise you” amidst a sound that knows exactly where it belongs. I’d put this on vinyl and hang it on the wall. It may just be his first #1 song. And if that isn’t it, hang “Beer Drinker” right next to it. This one should easily shoot up the country music charts. Lyrically, it will appeal to both young and older listeners with that shout out to hard working Americans. With its groovy beat, catchy hook, and William Michael’s country-infused vocal chords on the lyrics, this one would spin well on the turntable, the jukebox, or on The Highway.
“I Met A Girl” was William Michael’s first single, and it’s gotten a lot of airplay on country radio. Instantly, you know this is not the overplayed fare we’ve come to expect in the past few years. There’s an innocence and a sweetness in William Michael’s voice that makes this the tender love song it is. I can’t help getting lost in this song every time I hear it. It’s such a departure from everything we’ve been hearing of late when boy meets girl in a song. The absence of daisy dukes and the usual cliched terms of endearment is refreshing. It’s a simple song, beautifully sung, in the style of yesterday’s country hitmakers, yet the youth in William Michael’s voice puts it firmly in the 21st century. And from love to losing it, “Lonesomeville” is an old fashioned sad song. I hear a lot of George Strait in this one and every instrument that plays classic country. This feels like a tribute to the guys who brought William Michael to the dance. Straight up old school, no chaser.
“Cheap Cologne” reminds us there are two sides to that cheatin’ coin. While Tyler Farr got a little “Redneck Crazy” when confronted with this situation, William Michael takes a less confrontational approach. An empty bed speaks just as loudly as a Silverado parked on the front lawn. You can’t help but love the lyrics in this one, and the unmistakable country guitars that speak to each other remind me of a bygone era in country music, when little was borrowed from other genres. There was a purity to country music and the instruments that defined it, and “Cheap Cologne” is written and performed in that likeness. The last image we’re left with at the conclusion of this EP seems to put us back where it started. William Michael is from Mississippi, and “Back Seat Driver” sounds like something his daddy told him when he left home for Nashville. It could apply to anyone who’s ever left home to pursue opportunities elsewhere, but it seems especially appropriate for someone who left life in the country for the neon lights of Music City. Though more modern sounding than some of the other songs on this album, the lesson goes back decades. It’s a perfect representation of the songwriting that once defined country music, with a tweak of the instrumentation and engineering process to make it sound relevant for today’s listeners. I pictured William Michael leaving home in Mississippi to pursue his dream in Nashville and record this song that describes the emotional parting. From where this ends, it all begins.
William Michael Morgan didn’t set out to record an old school country album. The songs on this EP weren’t selected to fill a void or jump on any bandwagon. With Chris Stapleton’s recent success and long overdue recognition, some may assume that William Michael is a young artist looking to cash in on a developing trend of making an old sound new again. Not the case here. This is a young man singing the music he grew up on with a voice that really couldn’t sing anything else. He opens his mouth and country music comes out, genuinely. His debut EP is simply a coming together of the right voice with songs that suit him, personally and musically. They are less defined by a particular setting and more so by events and affairs of the heart that are universally more relatable. This album is a beautiful collection of country songs that don’t straddle any line. The songwriting, the instrumentation, and William Michael’s voice give this a purity that old school fans will cheer. It’s been a long time since we had a young voice that was authentically classic country sounding. That youth may attract new fans to the sound. If country radio is true to its roots and continues to play William Michael’s music, a new generation of listeners may be as enamored with his music as I was when I first heard it. For now, I downloaded it from iTunes. Seems rather sacrilegious for something that sounds this good and may stand the test of time. Personally, “I’d put it on vinyl.”
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Visit William Michael Morgan’s website: http://williammichaelmorgan.com/
Grand Ole Opry photographs courtesy of Bill McClintic of 90 East Photography.
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