To put it simply, if you’re fan of classic outlaw country, you’ll really dig Whitey Morgan and the 78’s. Their new record Born, Raised and Live from Flint is pure honkytonk goodness, with lap steel that’ll run circles around you and harmonica that sounds like it’s leaving flames in its wake. Recorded live in Morgan’s hometown of Flint, Michigan, you can hear the excitement of the sold out crowd as he drawls through these fantastic songs about women, drugs, drinking and blue collar jobs.
The best way to listen to Morgan and his band is with a cool glass of bourbon. Once you hear the maniacal keys mixing melodically with the steel and electric guitars and harmonica on standout Johnny Paycheck cover “Cocaine Train”, you’ll understand why. “It’s good to be back home,” Morgan says to the audience, and damn if we didn’t wish we were there, too. “Cocaine Train” is something of a cautionary tale, but Morgan’s version sure is fun, and like most of the songs on Born, it’s meant for cowboy boots on a dance floor.
“We’re gonna play all night. I hope you don’t have any plans,” Morgan tells his fans before launching into “Crazy”. “I got you for at least another two hours,” he says as he goes full speed ahead into the bluesy tune. It really feels like you’re right there in the front row when you listen to this entire record, and moments like these only make it all seem more real. But the best part of Born is that it makes you realize just how tight the 78’s sound live.
There’s a gritty authenticity to Morgan’s voice, but also a kind of giddy excitement for life that especially comes across on songs like “Buick City Blues” and “I Ain’t Drunk I’ve Just Been Drinking”. His songwriting is clever and cheeky and often totally hilarious, and it’s ideal for singing along. “Mind Your Own Business” and “Cheatin’ Again” are like old Waylon Jennings tunes, and given how far popular country music has strayed from classics like him, you’ll deeply appreciate this influence.
Though his songs explore familiar territory, there’s no question that Morgan is one of a kind. You can even sense his stage presence and big personality from listening to Born, which are often what’s missing from live albums. But it’s evident that he’s having a blast playing songs like Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire”, “Turn Up the Bottle” and Johnny Cash’s “Bad News”. He and his band are loud and rowdy, and though they haven’t been around nearly as long as you’d think, their sound is seasoned and finely weathered. Morgan’s deep, soulful voice is sexy and rough—pure country. You could say they don’t make ‘em like they used to, but then, maybe it’s time you heard Whitey Morgan and the 78’s.