Some singers try to change the world, one issue at a time.
Others break hearts, or pack the dance floor, or pose as rebels and outlaws through their songs.
Craig Morgan, though, has set a higher goal for himself.
On My Kind of Livin, his third album and second full-length project for Broken Bow Records, he moves further up the path he has chosen to follow as an observer of the small, meaningful things in our everyday lives.
The child who deals with the loss of his beloved dog on Lotta Man (In That Little Boy), the old farmer and his wife who rediscover their love on Rain for the Roses, the friends torn apart by tragedy on Cowboy and Clown -- all the images on My Kind of Livin draw power from the poetry
that surrounds us all in everyday America.
Somebody told me not long ago that whenever they hear a song that visually paints a picture, they think of me because that is the kind of writing I have come to do best, Morgan explains. We hinted at that approach on my first record and grasped it on the second. On this one, we
finally took it home.
This way of writing comes naturally to Morgan. During ten years in the military that included combat in Operation Just Cause and other deployments, including ROK Ranger School in Korea, he lived away from the things most of us take for granted. In Panama, I was sleeping two hours a
night and getting shot at each day, he says. I could not even think about home until I was ready to bed down. But in Korea there was a lot of free time to think on what I had left behind. For me, that meant memories of home: growing up in the woods, riding three-wheelers, fishing, and hunting. I had written songs before, but with so much time to reflect I began to write about the things I had known with more emotion and an appreciation for what they mean to me.
When Morgan could finally come back to Tennessee, everything he saw -- even the shopping mall that had sprouted up in place of the woods where he first hunted -- seemed to have become richer in spirit. He began working construction, at Wal-Mart, as a sheriffs deputy, and in other day jobs to support his family; whatever free time he had was devoted to writing. He was prolific; on a typical day he would finish four or five new songs. And they were good. As he sat in on writers night events or sang on demo sessions, word started to spread about the young artist who had a keen eye for details and a bards way with words.
Atlantic Records released Craig's self-titled debut in 2000. After that label closed its doors, Morgan signed with Broken Bow Records and recorded his second album, I Love It. By this time, he was no longer a Music City secret: The discs first single, Almost Home, earned a Songwriter
Achievement award from the Nashville Songwriters Association International after rising into the Top 10, while the album itself climbed to the top of the Billboard Heatseekers listing.
As his star rose higher, Morgan began to realize dreams he had always hoped would come true. He accepted invitations to tour with LeAnn Rimes, Montgomery Gentry, Brad Paisley and Terry Clark, playing before as many as eighty thousand fans at a time. And he became a frequent guest on Grand Ole Opry, where to his disbelief he found himself singing duets with two artists he had lionized for years: John Conlee and George Jones.
It was stunning, he admits. You are onstage and on TV, and these great artists are right on the other side of the microphone, and I am pinching myself to see if it is real. But George is as nice as anybody I have ever met, and John has always been, too. I have been on the Opry nearly
a hundred times now, but no matter how many times I am there it is a wonderful feeling to have John and George and Jim Ed Brown and Little Jimmy Dickens welcoming me and telling me they are glad to have me back.
An impressive run in a short time -- but with My Kind of Livin Morgan makes it clear that he is just warming up. I do not write as much as I used to -- maybe thirty songs a year now -- but I am writing better, he insists. I have come to understand that the good songs come naturally.
They talk about natural things: Things that might seem mundane or common are the things that we all can envision about ourselves because they are what we do -- or, if we do not, they are what we want to do.
And so the pictures pass by, like pages turning in a family photo album. Throughout My Kind of Livin recollections unfold of childhood (that blue bike, ball glove, and fishing pole...), of hard work done well (It is 98 in the shade, Mr. Rose is rolling hay -- eighty acres down and ten to go...), of trophies (a ten-point buck on the living room wall) and trials (when I have got you off my mind... that is when I will believe that you are gone), of a love that is just begun (living on a rural route, fixing up an old farmhouse... starting a fire on a cold winters night and making dreams come true...).
It is homespun, sure -- but when you dig beneath the drama and the fashion and distractions that clutter the media, what really matters are the values that Craig Morgan celebrates. Long after trends come and go, the people portrayed in these songs will endure.
The point I try to make is that the mundane things are not so mundane after all, he muses. The simple things, like being on a boat with your buddies, or sitting on a porch after church on Sunday, or the tractor you see in Rain for the Roses, are not always a part of everybodys life, because we are all in such a big rush. But they are all part of who we are.
It is not just My Kind of Livin -- Craig Morgan writes and sings about something in the experiences that we all share. Like our hopes and beliefs, he is here to stay.
Craig Morgan, Atlantic Records, 2000.
I Love It, Broken Bow Records, 2003.
My Kind Of Livin, Broken Bow Records, 2005
--- from the official Craig Morgan website