My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Craig Morgan – ‘I Love It’

i love itCraig was blindsided in 2001, when, not long after his debut album was released, his label, Atlantic, closed its country division. This could have been the end of his career, as no major label was interested following his modest success with the singles from his debut, but he signed a deal with indie label Broken Bow. Craig dropped his veteran producers in favor of himself and friend Phil O’Donnell, and the pair of them contributed to writing the majority of th material, which may have been a misstep.

The lead single ‘God, Family And Country’, was written by Morgan with Craig Morris (lead singer of the country group 4Runner and later a member of Loretta Lynn’s band) and Lance McDaniel. A swelling string arrangement and 4Runner’s choral backing vocals are unnecessary dressing on this, as the song is a solid, straightforward, story song about a WW2 soldier, which would have done perfectly well with a more stripped down production. Ex-soldier Morgan’s vocal is just right, however, empathetic without overselling the emotion. The patriotic lyric surprisingly did not help gain airplay, perhaps because Broken Bow lacked the promotional muscle.

But he was to make a real breakthrough with the second single, which reached #6 – the artist’s first top 10. He wrote ‘Almost Home’ with established songwriter Kerry Kurt Phillips. The melodic ballad is another story song with emotional heft, this time about an old homeless man whose comfort lies in dreams on the past.

The third single, ‘Every Friday Afternoon’, is the best song on the album. Written by Neal Coty and Jimmy Melton, it is an emotional song about a divorced father whose ex had decided to move states with their child:

The tears started falling
There was nothing I could say
Even if I fight it someone loses either way
Oh it might as well be China or the dark side of the moon
There’s no way I can be there every Friday afternoon

I have him every weekend, he’s got his own room here
He’s all that’s kept me going these last three years
There’s little league in Boston, oh but who will coach his team
How’s he gonna grow up without me

It was not a big hit, peaking at #25, which was a couple of places higher than the final single, ‘Look At Us’, which Morgan wrote with Larry Bastian and his former producer Buddy Cannon, suggesting it might have been a reject from his debut album recording sessions. It’s a rather boring and over produced song about a high school romance which has survived.

The traditional country ballad ‘What You Do To Me’ has some lovely steel and a pretty tune, and is rather nice. ‘Always Be Mine’, a ballad about lost love with the narrator still holding on, is quite good, too.

Craig’s tender vocal lifts the rather pedestrian inspirational ‘In The Dream’, which he wrote with Don Koch, to a higher level. ‘You Never Know’ mixes together three stories about unexpected changes in ordinary lives, any one of which could have been interestingly drawn out further.
‘Where Has My Hometown Gone’ expresses the shock felt on returning home after years away, and is okay, although I don’t particularly like the arrangement. The mid-paced title track is clichéd and forgettable, while ‘Money’ is just too loud with a cluttered arrangement.

This is not an outstanding record, but it’s a pretty decent one, and Morgan’s vocals are impressive.

Grade: B

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