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William Michael Morgan

William Michael Morgan – 2016 (Warner Nashville)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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CDs by William Michael Morgan

Did anyone bother to tell William Michael Morgan that he's seriously out of style? Who sports cowboy hats any more as the Vicksburg, Miss. native does on the cover of his debut? They were pretty much discarded (remember when hat acts got a tremendous amount of grief as poseurs?) years ago in favor of the baseball hats favored by the likes of Luke Bryan. Not surprisingly, Morgan has far more in common with the likes of George Strait (he still wears his cowboy headgear) than today's country popmeisters.

That means you're going to hear fiddle, pedal steel and an honest-to-goodness full-bodied country baritone that's perfect for the material. Joe Nichols serves as a good vocal reference point. No surprise either give that Morgan wreaks of sadness in "Lonesomeville" (remember Nichols' "Brokenheartsville"?) with the moan of the fiddle and an acoustic guitar smartly filling a few gaps.

Co-producers Jimmy Ritchey and Scott Hendricks deserve a tip of the hat for going against the grain as well and working with an artist who obviously is comfortable in a traditional country setting and don't try gussying him up.

The song selection plays to Morgan's strengths with concrete images in song after song. Morgan's delivery breathes emotion into the lyrics. Going with traditional country instrumentation, especially pedal steel, helps. His semi-hit "I Met a Girl," penned by Sam Hunt, Shane McAnally and Old Dominion's Trevor Rose, is proof.

The EP closes with "Back Seat Driver," a song about a father giving advice to his son ("call home every couple days if only for your mamma's sake/Hell she tells all her friends about you"). There's an emotion in the song, which Morgan ably expresses, that the father (has he passed away?) can no longer provide that help.

Morgan is a throwback in looks and sound. Maybe he's actually a trendsetter.