Clint Morgan – Troublemaker | Album Review

Clint Morgan – Troublemaker

Lost Cause Records

15 songs – 62 minutes

A boogie-woogie piano player who serves as an instructor at the annual Pinetop Perkins Foundation workshops in Clarksdale, Miss., Clint Morgan is a performer who – at first listen – might seem out of place in the blues world because of his countrified accent and somewhat rough-hewn style of delivery, but he’s an immensely gifted songwriter with a unique view of the world.

Produced by Grammy winning producer/multi-instrumentalist Kevin McKendree, Morgan weaves together a spellbinding mix of blues, boogie, rock and roots here that will grab your attention from the opening bars of this hour-long set, which includes guest appearances from several industry heavyweights.

Born and raised on a farm in rural Washington State, Clint grew up in a family that’s originally from southern Appalachia and related through marriage to the Carter family — so much so, in fact, that one of his great aunts was great-granny of A.P. Carter, the country and gospel singer/songwriter who gave birth to the clan.

This is Morgan’s third CD, following You’re Really Bugging Me in 2008 and the critically acclaimed Scofflaw in 2016. Troublemaker was primarily recorded at McKendree’s The Rock House in Franklin, Tenn., as well as Clarksdale, Olympia, Wash., Chandler, Ariz., High Point, N.C., and Houston and Mountain Home, Texas.

The lineup includes Doug Lancio, Jonn Del Toro Richardson, McKendree and Bob Margolin on guitars, David Santos and Tom Pell on bass with Kenneth Blevins on drums. They’re augmented by Bob Corritore on harmonica, Austin Hoke on cello, Robby Shankle on oboe, Jim Hoke on saxes and Jimmy Stewart on fiddle. McKendree also provides work on Hammond organ and Rhodes and Wurlitzer electric pianos, and guest vocalists include the McCrary Sisters (Ann and Regina), Richardson, Margolin, Kinky Friedman and Watermelon Slim.

But the true stars here are Morgan’s lyrics – beginning “Hangman Woman,” a straight-ahead blues that describes a lover locking him in a jail cell, having a “heart like a noose” and “it’ll take a pardon from the governor for her to turn me loose.” An interesting cover of “Go Down, Moses” features the McCrarys before Clint delivers a complaint about aging in “Ain’t That the Blues,” noting that he awakens every couple of hours at night to “suck on a bottle and cry.”

Morgan does justice to Cash’s country classic, “Big River,” next before the percussive “Hungry Man Blues” sings the praises of a lady who treats him like a king, but doesn’t cook a lick. Then Clint gets serious for a spell in the haunting ballad, “Echoes,” which recounts past memories as he longs for lost daughter.

Things brighten momentarily with the cautionary “I’ll Love You If I Want To,” which warns: “You can’t tell me what to do,” before “It’s Rough Out Here,” moans about dissatisfaction with his family and job — but insists he’s going to keep on going – and another in the clever rocker “She Take My Money” before the tongue-in-cheek “Too Rich to Sing the Blues,” in which Morgan describes being able to sing like Lightnin’ Hopkins but spends like Howard Hughes.

The country blues “Hurricane Harvey” features stellar work from Richardson on slide before Clint trades verses with Friedman on the plaintive complaint, “Somebody Put a Walmart on My Farm,” then uses Shel Siliverstein’s “Cover of Rolling Stone” and turns it into “The Cover of Living Blues,” aided by Margolin and Watermelon Slim. The disc ends with “The Troublemaker,” once a hit for Nelson, and a bonus-cut reinterpretation of “Living Blues” as only he can.

Clint Morgan’s vocal delivery might remind you of a young Johnny or Willie, but give him a chance. He’s blue to the bone – and clever, too!

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