October 5, 2008
After several years with Broken Bow, Craig Morgan has moved on to the Sony BMG family. As he preps his first release for his new label, his former home takes a look back with Greatest Hits, a collection of Morgan’s singles from his three albums with them.
While he hasn’t been a major record-seller or a consistent hitmaker, Morgan has built up a solid body of work over the past five years. Greatest Hits may surprise casual listeners of country radio, as they will recognize many songs here that they might not have realized were all by one artist. The biggest hits here include “That’s What I Love About Sunday”, “Redneck Yacht Club” and “Little Bit of Life”, and they represent Morgan’s kind of country perfectly, a winning combination of southern pride and self-deprecating humor.
The songs that weren’t quite as big hits, like “International Harvester” and “I Got You”, are still charming, packed with more personality than most mainstream country acts capture on records these days. Morgan has a knack for writing songs about women that are sincere but not condescending. “I Love It” is a perfect example of such a song, and it should be studied by Brad Paisley and Brooks & Dunn, who can’t seem to strike that balance when they write songs along those lines.
Morgan’s collection provides plenty of light romance and good-natured humor, but he also proves he can dig deeper, and the best tracks on the album are as substantial as anything that’s gotten spins at radio this decade. His breakthrough hit “Almost Home” is a tender portrayal of a vagrant who is angry to have been revived as he was nearing death, as he previewed the paradise that was waiting for him.
It’s a pair of heartbreaking ballads are the high points of the collection, ranking among the best singles released by any artist in the past five years. “Tough” pays tribute to a wife who is struggling with cancer, and it’s as authentic and real as it is heartfelt. Even more powerful is “Every Friday Afternoon”, which has a father reeling from the news that his ex-wife is moving her son so far away that he won’t be able to see him on the weekends. His painful realization that “even if I fight it, someone loses either way” is noble, but doesn’t change the hurt associated with knowing that he’ll miss seeing his son growing up.
Morgan’s career may be on the brink of breaking wide open, with his new label home and recent invitation to join the Grand Ole Opry. If that comes to pass, there’s a good chance this collection will be seen as evidence that he was worthy of big stardom all along.