Grit comes “pretty naturally” to Whitey Morgan.
That comes from growing up in the blue-collar environs of Flint, Mich., and being raised around some of the hardest-hitting country and rock imaginable. And that muscle is all over the Americana veteran’s new album, Hard Times and White Lines, whose new single “What Am I Supposed To Do” premieres exclusively below.
“I really like the sound on this album — it’s a little harsher, I would say, just a little grittier as far as the overall sound,” Morgan, who produced the set at Sonic Ranch studios in Texas, tells Billboard. “Even the slow songs have an edge to them, a more aggressive sound even though they’re more mellow. Everything’s a little bit more aggressive, I would say, and that’s what I wanted, just to be a little more out there, a little more ballsy, a little more raw.”
Hard Times and White Lines follows 2015’s Sonic Ranch in that approach, and Morgan chuckles as he notes that, “I wouldn’t know what to do with a record that was more mellow. I’ve got to keep pushing it in your face, I guess. And what my fans seem to want.” The songs are mostly new creations especially for the album, but “What am I Supposed to Do” is one is one Morgan has had in his sights ever since his friend Don “Doop” Duprie, a Detroit singer-songwriter and first responder, showed it to him about eight years ago.
“He wrote the shit out of that one,” notes Morgan, who now resides in rural northern California. “I heard him play it live and it hit me like no song has in such a long time because I could identify with it. A lot of people I knew in Flint, people in my family, went through that, when your job goes away when you’re in your forties. How do you start over at 45 when you’ve been doing something for 20 years of your life or longer? Being a musician and doing what I do, only one person can make my job go away, and that’s me. But these people who worked their whole lives at General Motors or wherever else, what do you do? It really has a lot of meaning to me.”
Hard Times, due out Oct. 26, also includes a cover of ZZ Top’s “Just Got Paid” along with eight Morgan originals, and he and his band the 78’s are joined by high-profile guests such as Larry Campbell and Jim “Moose” Brown. Morgan and company will be playing his 2nd Annual Birthday BBQ on Sept. 8, then kick off a fall tour to promote the album on Oct. 13 in Chicago. Hard Times also coincides with the 10-year anniversary of Morgan’s first full album, Honky Tonks and Cheap Motels, and he’s happy with what he’s achieved so far. “I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he says. “The thing I’m most proud of is that the fans know how hard this band has worked for this. It wasn’t given to us — and that’s exactly the way it should have gone. The records have progressively gotten better and bigger. I don’t think I’ve played a show in 10 years where the next time I played there wasn’t at least a 20 percent increase in the crowd. That’s all you can hope for, you know? I’m a happy man.”