Album Review: Whitey Morgan and the 78′s – Whitey Morgan and the 78′s

Juli Thanki | October 27th, 2010

Whitey Morgan and the 78's - Whitey Morgan and the 78'sThere’s a quote from Drew Carey about people who hate their job: “There’s a support group for that. It’s called Everybody, and they meet at the bar.” If that support group has an official soundtrack, it’s probably Whitey Morgan and the 78s’ new, self-titled release, which is chock full of tunes for hard workers and hard drinkers—or people who just like to hear songs about them.

Granted, the band’s Bloodshot debut doesn’t start off particularly strongly, with a so-so version of “Bad News,” a song written by John D. Loudermilk that’s been recorded by Johnny Cash. But things quickly pick up as the record moves to “Turn Up the Bottle,” a midtempo ode to a hole in the wall that’s got Jones on the jukebox; as Morgan sings, “If I’m going to drown in my misery/I’ve got a good place to start.” “I Ain’t Drunk,” meanwhile, is a more humorous look at boozing: its punch line, “I ain’t drunk/I’ve just been drinkin’/I started at five in the afternoon/About three days ago,” is a speech that makes perfect sense to a drunkard, but isn’t quite as rational or amusing to the bartender or police officer to whom he’s speaking. The most interesting of these bar tales is “Where Do Ya Want It?” which was written by Dale Watson about the infamous shooting involving Billy Joe Shaver. It’s a rollicking honkytonker, one that’s easy to imagine on a Watson album that isn’t Carryin’ On. Whitey and crew do a fine job on the rowdy song, with fiddler Tamineh Gueramy playing particularly well.

The barroom songs are sharp, but the Flint, Michigan fivesome really shines when they’re singing about working. Album highlight “Buick City,” a steady, harmonica-laden song about the massive Flint auto plant that closed in the late ’90s, motors along with the steady pulse of an assembly line as it tells the story of an average Joe autoworker who’s forced to leave town in a reversal of the urban migration that drew so many North. Listening to this song, it’s pretty clear that Morgan and the band are devoted Waylonphiles, and damn entertaining ones, too. “Hard Scratch Pride,” meanwhile, about a boy from Hard Scratch Holler, is “Coal Miner’s Daughter” meets “Detroit City.” It’s a song that’s been sung before in various incarnations, and Morgan and the 78s should be commended for making the retro-sounding track still feel fresh.

The handful of covers on Whitey Morgan & The 78s are, for the most part, only average, with the exception of a stellar version of Johnny Paycheck’s “Meanest Jukebox in Town.” With a deep, slightly raspy voice and his old school leanings, it’s easy to see Morgan appealing to those who dig ’70s and early ’80s albums by artists like Paycheck, Jennings, David Allan Coe, or Hank Jr. For those who missed their 2008 debut Honky Tonks and Cheap Motels, this is a solid record that serves as an introduction to a rapidly up-and-coming band.

3.5 Stars

1 Ping

  1. [...] the new Whitey Morgan and the 78’s record Juli reviewed this morning sounds like it’d be up your alley, then check out ninebullets.net for another write-up and [...]
  1. Paul W Dennis
    October 27, 2010 at 7:01 am

    Solid album – probably won’t get much airplay – I’d give it four stars

  2. Dave D.
    October 27, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    Being from Michigan and a longtime fan of the band, I’m biased in their favor, but don’t disagree with Julie or Paul.

  3. Dave D.
    October 27, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    Sorry, honestly meant to type “Juli”. At least I spelled Paul’s name correctly.

  4. Rick
    October 27, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    So does Whitey still use the name Whitey when they play in Detroit? Sounds like it could result in a life threatening situation to me…

  5. Merlefan50
    December 15, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    I found this Band by Billy Don Burns they covered one of his songs on this cd. Memories Cost alot.

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