Mike Morgan & the Crawl featuring Lee McBee
Black Top 1143
Naturally, some were better than others. So you decide to list the ones you liked the best: Rod Piazza & the Mighty Flyers, sure, and Roomful of Blues, Marcia Ball, Anson Funderburgh and Sam Myers and their Rockets -- and Mike Morgan & the Crawl. Morgan, in a lot of ways, is the other Anson. Both are Dallas-based finesse players who, though capable of overwhelming an audience, choose not to. Their approach is more subtle and, by evening's end, usually more effective.
Funderburgh, of course, has Sweet Sam. Morgan had Lee McBee, lost him, recorded an unfortunate album without him, and then got him back. (Actually, 1996's Looky Here! is one fine CD with great playing and songs; it's just that it's so darned hard to put up with Chris Whynaught's vocals past the fourth or fifth track.)
Whynaught is gone now, and McBee, who's looking more and more like he stepped out of a Mickey Spillane pulp novel, is back where he belongs: on stage and in the studio with Morgan. The Road is, like its predecessors, a well-balanced mix of fun, grit, blue-eyed soul and irrepressible spunk. McBee's blazing harmonica work gets a little more play than usual, and fellow Texan Riley Osborne sits in on almost every cut on either piano or Hammond B-3. And let's not forget that drummer Marc Wilson is still one of the best in the business.
As usual, Morgan keeps sneaking in these quick references to the elders. Isn't that a Chuck Berry lick about 2:15 into the rompin' title track? Carl Perkins on "I'm Blue"? And isn't "No Money Down" that old Chuck Berry song done up Muddy Waters style?
Three of the 11 songs -- "No More Clouds," "You're Gonna Miss Me Too," and "You Did Me a Favor" -- are welcomed nods to the still-groovy Stax/Volt sound, with Morgan and Osborne covering Booker T & the MGs territory. Then, on "Born to Boogie" and a jazzy instrumental, "Alexandria, Va.," Morgan cranks up the distortion for some dead-on retro. And if that's not enough, McBee recites "Wino II," a beat sequel to "Wino Talk" from the band's Bad Moon Over Dallas. (Don't worry, the tune's protagonist still prefers wine of the "screw-top vintage.")
Morgan, McBee & the Crawl have done it again. This is the good stuff.
-- Dave Ranney