You look at country radio the last few years and you just want to shake your head at all of the nonsense that has dominated it. From rap country to bro country to metro bro, there’s been absolute garbage populating the airwaves. People like to ask where’s the country gone? Well it’s been largely ignored by the labels on Music Row. The traditional country artists that have been pushed like Kacey Musgraves and Ashley Monroe have been rejected by radio. But I think the times are slowly changing now. Quietly labels on Music Row are loading their rosters with more traditionally inclined artists. One of those artists is William Michael Morgan, who is signed to Warner Music Nashville. The 22-year-old artist from Vicksburg, Mississippi is starting to emerge onto more people’s radars and 2016 is looking to be a breakout year for him. This was already the case when he had just released his debut single “I Met A Girl.” He’s now released his self-titled debut EP and I guarantee he’s turning even more heads after they hear it.
Some pedal steel guitar plays in “Vinyl.” As you can guess from the title, the song revolves around vinyl, as the man compares his love for his woman to music on vinyl. Just like vinyl, he says his woman is the “old fashioned” type that you don’t see too many of anymore. This analogy works well enough and with vinyl’s popularity continuing to surge, it smartly appeals to most people. Although more jaded listeners will find it to be a little corny. “Beer Drinker” is what you would call the most “radio friendly” song on the EP. The song is about shouting out all of the hard-working people out there who bust their ass and finish it off with cold beers at the end of the week. It’s an ode to the workingman. But while the lyrics err on the side of radio friendly, the instrumentation is still decidedly country. Think of this as a better, more country version of Lee Brice’s “Drinking Class.”
Morgan’s lead and current single “I Met A Girl” is next. I reviewed this last year and I have to say I’m encouraged to see it rising up the airplay charts and getting ready to enter the top 30. Warner is really getting behind him and I’m glad they see the importance of pushing this first single. From my original review: The song is about a man meeting a girl (you could figure this out from the title) and the ways this girl make him feel. He’s obviously struck by her and thankfully there’s no mentioning of her sugar shaker or her “Dixie Cup” being the reason behind it. That being said there isn’t a lot of meat to this song either. It could have went deeper and went more detailed into the theme of the song. Then again with a first single you can’t expect something too deep and really this goes deeper than most debut singles.
The best track of the EP is without a doubt “Lonesomeville.” If you’re looking at the title and instantly thinking of Joe Nichols’ #1 hit “Brokenheartsville,” well you’re going to think of it more when you hear the song. Just like that hit, this is your classic heartbreak, drinking country song. The man’s love has left and now he’s left alone to pick up the pieces of his broken heart. The songwriting is sharp and can really hit an emotional spot to some listeners. If I’m Morgan, this is the next single that gets released. If country radio is deciding to be more receptive to traditional country, then this will be an instant hit. This is followed up by another well-written love ballad, “Cheap Cologne.” Or I should say heartbreak ballad, as the song is about a man having a sneaking suspicion his woman is cheating on him. He can smell “the honkytonk in her hair” in the form of cigarettes and cheap cologne. Of course he doesn’t smoke nor wear cheap cologne. It’s pretty obvious she’s cheating, although it’s never clearly answered. This is another song I think would make a great choice to release as a single, as it’s not only strongly country, but the lyrics are catchy too.
The EP concludes with “Back Seat Driver,” a song about a father dealing with his son growing up and moving out. The main focus is around the father giving pointers to his son on driving and making sure he’s prepared for anything. Of course this is beyond driving and about life in general, as he tells his son that he can’t be his back seat driver anymore (in life or in the car). While this theme will come off as saccharine to some, I think it will resonate with many younger listeners and connect with them in a big way. Overall it’s another pretty solid song from Morgan.
This EP confirms my initial thoughts on William Michael Morgan: He’s the real deal. Morgan is showing that he’s committed to the traditional country sound and I’m glad he’s being allowed to showcase it. His approach and styles reminds me a lot of George Strait, as like Strait he fits country music like a glove and comes off flawless when he sings. In other words, Morgan gets country music and understands how to connect with the listener. While I know some people come away expecting a little more in the lyrics and theme department, I would remind you that Morgan is only 22. Just like I said in my review of Maddie & Tae’s debut album last year, I think it’s fair to cut younger artists some slack in this regard. Remember they’re writing and singing about what they know, which isn’t going to connect with older listeners as well as the younger listeners. Morgan will only get better with time. This is a great start for Morgan and if he continues down his current path and is allowed to make the music he wants to make, you could be looking at a star for years to come.