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As I first reported here, Michigan-based honky tonk band Whitey Morgan & The 78′s have signed with Chicago-based independent label Bloodshot Records. Both times I saw them at South by Southwest, their live show did not disappoint. Whitey might be the closest thing to Waylon you can see these days. There’s a lot of bands that try to ape the Waylon sound with the thumping bass drum and the simple two note bass line, but Whitey and the 78′s have found a way to re-create that soul, that swagger that Waylon’s Outlaw band had, and Whitey ain’t afraid of taking his own leads.
The reason I think the Whitey/Bloodshot signing is significant, more significant that just for the band and Bloodshot, is because it means the system is still working. Over the last decade, the music industry has been going through tremendous, merciless contraction. The fact that Bloodshot is looking for new talent, and then is able to find it means there’s still hope and upward potential for REAL country music.
And that’s the other thing that excites me, because a lot of Bloodshot’s bands are country-esque, but most blend country with something else. Whitey Morgan and he 78′s are pure country, REAL country, though at one point on stage Whitey said, “We call ourselves a honky tonk band. We don’t want to call ourselves country and have people think we play that shit that’s on the radio.”
Whitey dropped a few other interesting nuggets from stage, including that their upcoming album will be recorded at the studios of Levon Helm. He also confirmed that “Where Do You Want It,” a song by Dale Watson about Billy Joe Shaver will be on their upcoming album after Dale listened to it and gave them the thumbs up (see video I shot below for the full scoop).
The Whitey signing came about after the band toured opening for other Bloodshot artists Wayne “The Train” Hancock and the The Deadstring Brothers. I talked to bass player Jeremy Mackinder for a while about the burgeoning Michigan country music scene, and he hinted that fellow Gander country artist Rachel Brooke might be included in future touring plans.
You should check Whitey Morgan and the 78′s out if you haven’t already. That way your Whitey T-shirts will be nice and worn in when they get big and you’re bragging that you knew them before they were hot.
(This is the second article of two in the “REAL Music from Michigan” series)
In some ways Michigan can’t win for losing. Yes the auto industry is shutting down, but they also get yoked for being “Yankees” when really a lot of Michigan and Michiganders have a lot more in common with Southerners and the South. Not to knock Yankees either. I’ve always said everyone should be proud of where they are from, because there is nothing you can do about it. Yes, the home of country music is the south, but Michigan, and the upper Midwest as a whole, has been contributing not just a few of its ranks to the REAL country movement.
That includes people like Rachel Brooke, and Whitey Morgan and the 78′s. On Friday, May 8th they joined forces, along with Pat. V & the Detroit Three, at Detroit’s PJ’s Lager House. This was one of those shows I saw on the calendar and would have killed to be at, but unfortunately there was about 2,000 miles in the way. However Misfit1III8 from Misfit Radio (that also can be heard on Flapdaddy HERE) was there, with video gear in tow.
First on stage is the ravishing Rachel Brooke:
The only other person I’ve ever known of that can convey that much pain with just their voice and an acoustic guitar is Hank Williams. Rachel Brooke is not only a singular talent, if you ask me she is a national treasure. If you’re heart was not stirred by that performance, you need to call for a crash cart.
Then the wild eyed Michigan boys that make up Whitey Morgan and the 78′s got on stage to kick ass, take names, and chew bubble gum:
I spent some good time in Buick City some years back, and I can vouch that the people up there are cut of a thick, hearty cloth, and are full of the “work hard, play hard” culture.
Some other notable Michiganders you should check out if you haven’t before are Junk, who also collaborates with Rachel Brooke in Rachel & Junk. Also if you’re into punk music with a little country here and there, you should check out Detroit’s Tim Pop Live podcast, which incidentally has been a huge supporter of Free Hank III as well.
(This is the second guest article written by Cliff England, and part one of two in the “REAL country music from Michigan” series.)
With the passing of Waylon Jennings, and so many country heroes, fans will be hard pressed to find some true outlaws nowadays, but I’ve come to find Michigan still has a few. Just head up I-75 and you can’t miss them. Once you hear the first track of Honky Tonks and Cheap Motels you’ll understand what I mean. Whitey Morgan and the 78’s hailing from the cold and bitter streets of Flint, Michigan recently released their first full length album. This isn’t your modern day pop-country ensemble. In fact they are far from that.
Whitey Morgan, lead singer, is backed by an astounding group of musicians: Jeremy “Leroy” Blitz and Benny James on guitar, as well Jeremy Mackinder on bass and Mike “Pops” Popovich on the drums. Get these boys together and they are sure to bring out the inner honky-tonker in us all.
Honky Tonks and Cheap Motels, released last September, keeps to the core of the outlaw movement of the late 70’s. The tracks on the album range from the sober lonesome story of love gone sour in “Back to Back”, to the up-beat honky tonk drinkin’ tune of “Another Round”. It’s pretty easy to tell where Whitey and the boys are influenced. The sounds of Waylon, Willie, Merle, and Hank just pour out of them, like draft beer from a pitcher.
The essential country themes are all there: Loving, Cheating, Fighting, and Drinking. No topic is untouchable, including the complete lack of genuine country music in Nashville. The lines in the track “If it Ain’t Broke” ring so true:
“Nowadays in Nashville is like the Hollywood of the South. So called country singers singing songs they know nothing about. Swimming pools and fancy cars, dating them big time movie stars, well that don’t sound like country to me.”
The juke box classics do not stop there. Whitey even takes a stab at the Bruce Springsteen classic, “I’m on Fire”, and let me tell you Whitey cuts deep. A story of love leaving in “Goodbye Dixie”, and the raunchy life on the road Hank Williams Jr.-esque “Sinner”, helps solidify Honky Tonks and Cheap Motels as an essential country record of 2009. Rascal Flatts, Chuck Wicks, and Rodney Adkins are shaking in their polished rhinestone boots, because they hear these boys coming. Nashville beware there is a storm brewing in Michigan.
You can check out Whitey Morgan and the 78’s at www.whiteymorgan.com, or on their MySpace page, or catch them on the road this summer with the likes of Wayne Hancock, Shooter Jennings, and the Deadstring Brothers.