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Friday, June 4, 2010

What to Do Tonight: Whitey Morgan & the 78's

Posted By on Fri, Jun 4, 2010 at 9:00 AM

Whatca doin round these parts?
  • "What'ca doin' 'round these parts?"

Though they hail from Flint, Michigan, Whitey Morgan and his band are closer to the old-fashioned heart of Nashville than most of what passes for country music these days. Their hardheaded honky-tonk twang is pure outlaw, channeling a rebellious spirit that’s as true to their name-checked predecessors (Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Hank Williams) as it is to the MC5. They even brought in pedal-steel vet Fred Newell (who’s played with Waylon Jennings and Jerry Reed) for their 2008 debut album, Honky Tonks and Cheap Motels. Their namesake leader (who was born Eric Allen) grew up in Kentucky before his family moved to Detroit. He learned to play guitar by listening to old Hank Williams songs his grandfather, a country musician, taught him. Allen has a deep baritone suited to the material, which covers traditional territory: failing relationships, whiskey-drowned troubles, and wailing pedal-steel ballads dedicated to “Love and Honor.” While Whitey Morgan & the 78’s hew close to the dog-eared but long-shelved formula, they add knowing, self-deprecating humor (“Cheatin’ Again”), a solid, if intermittent, rock backbeat, and a fine cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire,” surprisingly well-suited to their dusty backstreet style. Whitey Morgan & the 78’s, with Not So Good Ol’ Boys and Dan McCoy & the Standing 8’s plat the Beachland Tavern at 9 p.m. Tickets: $7.—Chris Parker

Review the show at clevescene.com/concertscene

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