Whitey Morgan and the 78s provided a blistering refresher course in how good traditional country can still be Tuesday night. It's too bad all but about 20 Salt Lake residents took a pass on the lesson.
Whether it was due to the show falling on a weeknight, landing in SLC's pre-eminent hipster haunt or a lack of promotion, it didn't matter to Morgan. His band played a fast-paced, white-hot 90-minute set that was actually enhanced by the small crowd as Morgan felt free to play whatever he wanted, including a batch of covers from Merle Haggard, Johnny Paycheck and Waylon Jennings. Morgan said his band hadn't played any Haggard songs in a while. It was tough to tell as they ripped through "Mama Tried," "Working Man Blues," and "Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down." For good measure, they also played killer covers of Waylon Jennings' "Lonesome, On'ry and Mean," Johnny Paycheck's "Cocaine Train," and Willie Nelson's "Me and Paul."
However, this is no tribute act. Morgan's originals including "Turn Up The Bottle," "I Ain't Drunk," and "Honkey Tonk Angel," proved themselves to be good-time, old-school country romps that held their own - even surrounded by classic outlaw country songs. A continual aspect of the show is that with his tattoos, long beard and long hair, Morgan looks more like the leader of a biker gang than a rocking country band. But he's got a terrific deep voice and is no slouch on the guitar as he frequently traded licks and leads with guitarist Benny James. Here's hoping that Morgan and the 78s give Salt Lake another shot - and soon. This is a sample of what practically everyone missed Tuesday.