by Rhetta Akamatsu
The first time I ever heard of Clint Morgan was when I received Scofflaw to review. And do you want to hear my objective opinion? I was blown away pretty much.
This is in no way an ordinary album. It is a celebration of the dark side of humor nature, and then a turn to the light side. Clint Morgan is a lawyer as well as a singer, and he is fascinated with history and with the ability of people to be bad, even really bad, and then change. So the theme of this CD is the struggle between dark and light, sin and redemption. It follows its protagonist through his years as a criminal and fugitive to his struggle toward the light. But this is not a man who wanted to be good and did bad; this man for much of the album absolutely glories in being bad.
The story is told in 18 songs, and the protagonist commits his crimes in three different historical periods: in the West right after the Civil War, the Depression gangster era and modern times. The story is told entirely in song and the styles include blues, country early rock, ragtime, and gospel.
Clint Morgan is a gifted blues and boogie-woogie piano player who sounds like early Johnny Cash and sometimes like Willie Nelson. He is joined on the CD by blues and pop great Maria Muldaur and Blues Award winner Dinna Greenleaf, Other musicians on the album include Dave Roe (bass), Kenny Vaughan (guitar), Jerry Roe (drums), Jonathan Yadkin (fiddle), and multi-instrumentalist Jim Hoke on dulcimer and a plethora of other instruments.
The songs range from a great rockabilly version of “Wild One” to a fantastic minor-key take on Bob Dylan’s “Wanted Man” (which was a hit for Johnny Cash,)to the very dark yet humorous “Send Me to The “Lectric Chair,” made more deliciously creepy by Greenleaf’s vocal contributions. to Muldaur and Morgan’s incredible duet on the old hymn, “Softly and Tenderly.” Other great numbers are Morgan’s own “Eastham Farm”and Muldaur’s “I Done Made Up My Mind,” which sounds exactly like the sort of rocking gospel number I used to hear when I visited the Pentecostal Church with my best friend years ago.
Don’t miss the booklet that is included with the disc. Not only does it have the lyrics written in an old-fashioned font, but it has very short biographical details, photos and quotes from famous outlaws and mobsters like Billy the Kid, Cole Younger, and John Dillinger, and wonderful historic photos of bad guys, along with a few appropriate scripture verses.
Honestly, this album is amazing. I have never heard anything quite like it. I suppose it may not be to everyone’s taste, but you should at least give it a listen. If you like it, you are really going to like it, not just a little bit. I was enthralled.