While the heart of Texas and the hills of Tennessee have provided us with the majority of the great music you hear today, an unlikely location is the birthplace of one of the best artists in the biz right now. Whitey Morgan is a modern-day outlaw whose music’s attitude ranks right up there with the best of them, and he hails from Michigan. Don’t let that throw you. Whitey Morgan and the 78’s newest album, Sonic Ranch, is a honky-tonk masterpiece that feels like it comes straight from the Lone Star State. In fact, Sonic Ranch is easily one of the best albums of 2015.
Sonic Ranch will reach up and punch you right in the mouth if you aren’t careful. This isn’t your watered-down pop-country music for your commute to soccer practice. This is blood, sweat, and beer that is dripping with loneliness and sorrow while being equally tough as nails and feisty. The easy comparison would be to call it Waylon-esque. While that is true, Whitey is much more than just a clone of Watasha. This album features storytelling and honesty that makes it all Whitey Morgan. It is inspired by Paycheck, Waylon, Haggard, and Coe, but it still sounds fresh and unique. Songs like “Me And The Whiskey”, “Ain’t Gonna Take It Anymore”, and “Goin Down Rockin” are loud and proud jams that still evoke feelings of regret and sadness along the way. “Waitin’ ‘Round To Die” is a fantastic cover of the Townes Van Zant classic, and “Still Drunk, Still Crazy, Still Blue” is a great rendition of Scott H. Biram’s song. Both of these songs give you the feeling of reckless abandon that Whitey attacks this album with. These songs portray a man with a lot of demons and a lack of self-control. “Good Timin’ Man” sounds like it would be a rocking number, but it is the most subdued moment of the album as it discusses the struggle of being the life of the party when that isn’t what you are feeling on the inside.
The flow of this album is one of its best features. Every song features twangy guitar, lots of steel, and an often under-used instrument, the piano. While each song has its own unique feel, they all fit together as a cohesive unit very well. One of the little nuances of music that can bring an album together is the track list. Whitey Morgan does a great job on Sonic Ranch of getting the tracks into a perfect order that extenuates the highs and lows of the songs. There are no jarring transitions or out-of-place tracks. Sonic Ranch is an album that should be listened to in one sitting straight through, and that’s the way it should be.
2015 has been a stellar year for real country music. Sure, the mainstream world hasn’t caught up yet, but the seedy underbelly of country music has been producing absolutely fantastic music at an astounding rate. Between Whitey Morgan and the 78’s, Chris Stapleton, Aaron Watson, Will Hoge, Zane Williams, Wade Bowen, and Randy Rogers you have a heck of a line-up with REAL country music. Sonic Ranch is one of the best releases from that crew. Whitey Morgan and the 78’s bring back the rowdy outlaw music of yesterday with a vengeance. Sonic Ranch is a must listen and will be at or near the top of any respectable “Best of 2015” list.
Standout Tracks: "Waitin' 'Round To Die", "Still Drunk, Still Crazy, Still Blue", "Good Timin' Man", "Me And The Whiskey", "Low Down On The Backstreets"
"Waitin' 'Round To Die"
"Still Drunk, Still Crazy, Still Blue"