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Outlaw Country Star Whitey Morgan Talks New Album

06/18/2015
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(Radio.com) If you're a fan of the 'outlaw' side of country, you may already know the music of Whitey Morgan. He's not on the radio much, but he is well known on the touring circuit for his energizing live show.

Now on his latest album, Sonic Ranch, the country troubadour strips down his sound for a gritty and raw collection of songs that showcase his many influences.

Recorded at a cozy studio outside of El Paso, Texas, that he says felt like home, Sonic Ranch includes not only original compositions but also a selection of memorable covers, including Townes Van Zandt's "Waitin' 'Round to Die," Waylon Jennings' "Goin' Down Rockin" and Tom T. Hall's 'That's How I Got to Memphis."

"There's definitely a piece of me in all those covers that I sing," Morgan tells Radio.com. He's speaking by phone from Bass Lake, California, a small village south of Yosemite National Park where he moved six months back.

Bass Lake is a long way from Flint, Michigan, where Morgan and his band, the 78s, first got their start five years ago. But it represents a new turn in Morgan's life. For instance, while his beard, long hair and tattoos give him the appearance of a biker, it turns out he's lately focused on bikes of the pedal-powered variety ("I'm healthier than I've been in along time," he admits"). In fact, as we speak he's taking a break from a cycling ride in the mountains near his new home.

But that fresh focus on personal health doesn't temper the grit, guts and soul that defines Morgan's music, which is steeped in the soul and sounds of country's honky tonk and outlaw eras. This is true whether he's performing his own original songs or working up new versions of vintage material. Either way, it's material that comes from a place deep down inside.

As he explains it: "If you're going to do someone else's song, you really have to make it your own. The only way to make it your own is if you lived it."

As far as the original songs he wrote for the record, Morgan says each song is true to him, the most honest being "Good Timin' Man," which speaks about the difficulties of life on the road.

"The chorus for that really explains a lot about me and life on the road. People want me to be that person when I'm on stage. I'm not always that person off stage and sometimes I have to put on a." He pauses. "Merle Haggard, in one of his songs ['Footlights'] he says you gotta 'put on that Instamatic grin.' You gotta go up there and put this show on no matter what mood you're in. You have to get up there, and they all want the party songs." Read more here.

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Copyright Radio.com/CBS Local - Excerpted here with permission.

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