Album Review – William Michael Morgan Shines on Self-Titled EP

William Michael Morgan EP

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.

Grade: 8/10

 

4 thoughts on “Album Review – William Michael Morgan Shines on Self-Titled EP

  1. Louis Knoebel March 28, 2016 / 11:31 am

    Great review! I juggled between a 7 and an 8 myself for this and ultimately went with a 7.5 haha. On one hand, I could do without the constant rhyming of “girl” with “girl” on “Vinyl”, and “Beer Drinker” was a bit too corny for me.

    On the other hand though, it’s a mainstream release, meaning there has to be some type of compromise present here. Considering “Vinyl” and “Beer Drinker” are the most mainstream friendly tracks here, they’re still better than like 90% than the shit country radio plays. And that’s not even mentioning the absolute awesome second half of this album. “Cheap Cologne” was my personal favorite on here, but “Lonesomeville” is damn close. I also really enjoyed “Back Seat Driver”. Overall you’re right, this guy is the real deal.

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  2. Amanda March 28, 2016 / 11:34 am

    This is a solid EP, I hope to hear more from William Michael Morgan. He is awesome.

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  3. OlaR March 28, 2016 / 3:11 pm

    Solid EP. But i miss a fast song. Best songs: “I Met A Girl” & “Back Seat Driver”. 8/10.

    Checkout – Forgotten Artist: Ronna Reeves
    Ronna Reeves was on Mercury Nashville. She was dropped after three albums (only one reached the charts: “The More I Learn”, No.72) She recorded an album for the short-lived River North Nashville label “After The Dance” in 1995. She left Nashville & switched to pop/rock music.
    Her only single “hit” was “The More I Learn (The Less I Understand About Love)” which reached No.49 in 1992. My favourite track/single is “My Heart Wasn’t In It”.
    Her voice was unique, her songs contemporary country with some traditional elements, but the production was outdated.

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  4. Nadia Lockheart March 29, 2016 / 3:27 am

    To be honest, if this EP had been cut by someone in their mid-30s or older, I probably would have given it somewhere around a 6 out of 10…………………because the lyricism truly did leave a lot to be desired.

    But it would be callous to expect the likes of a 22-year old like William Michael Morgan to be singing incredibly nuanced songs about relationships, faith, family and so forth. Paradoxically, as much as our culture obsessively fixates on the youngest demographics while paying most everyone else less mind……………….we also tend to be dismissive of youthful perspectives in that we shrug the off as “naive” or “unseasoned”. And seeing that country music has always been a big tent akin to an ongoing family reunion, we ought to encourage youthful perspectives that eschew peer pressure and mass marketing campaigns.

    This EP sounds like an honest encapsulation of life behind the eyes of William Michael Morgan. “Back Seat Driver” effortlessly captures the bittersweet realization and growing pains of someone emerging from adolescence. “Vinyl” is a hot resurgent market right now and so it sounds genuine hearing a song like that in this current climate that is also obsessed with revisiting disco and funk all over again too. And “I Met A Girl” is definitely an age-appropriate appreciation of a young woman he fancies that is still strikingly more mature than what most male A through C-listers in mainstream country/”country” music are tossing out that are as much as twice his age.

    *

    So, yeah………………..this sounds pretty good, Although I have one minor criticism of how the tracks as a whole stay safely in a mid-tempo vein and never really stretches out of that. Granted most male A through C-listers in mainstream country/”country” entertainers are guilt of this too, but it still would have been sweet to see William Michael Morgan flirt with a rave-up like Strait occasionally has done with “Blue Marlin Blues” or “Adalida”.

    I’m thinking a Decent to Strong 7 out of 10 for this.

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