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Craig Morgan

A Lot More to Me – 2016 (Black River)

Reviewed by Michael Rampa

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CDs by Craig Morgan

Craig Morgan has been called "country music's champion of the everyman." Not only did the native of Kingston Springs, Tenn. spend more than 10 years in the U.S. Army, when he came home he worked construction, wore the badge of a sheriff's deputy and even did time at a Walmart. For his first album of original material in four years as and his second for Black River, he makes it abundantly clear in the liner notes that he is a devout Christian and the tone of the album reflects those core values. The delicate legacy ballad "Hearts I Leave Behind," features Christian rock singer Mac Powell.

Morgan penned 5 of the 12 songs while an eclectic collection of co-writers including Michael McDonald and Shane McAnally fill the liner notes.

Morgan's smooth baritone rings with plenty of twang. And the album leans toward the traditional side of country in terms of instrumentation with plenty of pedal steel, banjo and distinct Telecaster. He goes overboard in some cases, especially on he contradictory "I'm That Country" where he juxtaposes John Deeres and cowboy boots with champagne and Versace. The adept fiddle and twangy Tele are a bit too deliberate sonically." Who Would It Be" is a kitschy take on the old game, "If you had to choose one person..." that also gets overly simplistic. "If you had that kind of power and only had an hour with anyone from A to Z who would it be?," Morgan sings.

Morgan is known for his simple themes and songs espousing core values. These 40 minutes are no exception. He has scored more than a dozen hits since his 2000 debut, but this effort shows no indication of a charting single like "International Harvester" or "That's What I Love About Sunday." But not unlike the rest of the songs on those respective albums, this is a steady as she goes effort that neither excites nor bores the listener.