Craig Morgan, "This Ole Boy" (Black River)
At a time when country music's pop leanings have fans questioning the genre's elasticity, Craig Morgan leaves no doubt about what he sings. For 12 years, Morgan has filled albums with imagery of the rural south, with hits such as "Redneck Yacht Club" and "That's What I Love About Sunday," helping set a predominant country music trend toward upbeat songs about family, home, pickup trucks, and old-fashioned values.
As the title "This Ole Boy" suggests, Morgan's latest album keeps his working boots planted in farmland soil. The title song, a current country radio hit, establishes Morgan's point-of-view: He's a regular guy who couldn't be happier about the life he leads.
Fortunately, Morgan and longtime co-producer and co-writer Phil O'Donnell match his optimistic lyrics with infectious, good-time arrangements. The album only falters when Morgan, a 47-year-old father who spent more than a decade in the Army, adopts a more brazen, rocking attitude. The songs "Show Me Your Tattoo" and "Corn Star" objectify wild women in ways better left to younger performers.
But when he's suggesting modern life could use more home-cooked meals ("The Whole World Needs A Kitchen") or recalling a youthful seduction spent on a quiet lake ("Fish Weren't Bitin'''), Morgan exemplifies why country music continues to offer a distinctly likeable worldview.
CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: The mid-tempo "Love Loves A Long Night" sways like a gentle midnight breeze as it details a couple's sweetly romantic evening spent on a blanket under a star-lit sky.