Lost Cause Records
A concept album, Scofflaw is Clint Morgan’s second recording. Morgan is a piano player, singer, songwriter, and lawyer from Washington. With a rough-hewn voice—think Billy Joe Shaver with a bit of honey—giving his songs the patina of authenticity, Morgan explores the dark side of folks who could have/should have done better for themselves.
Across 75-minutes, Morgan delves into the lives and situations of outlaws, criminals, and desperadoes revealing aspects of their lives that dime store books and movies may not have emphasized. One doesn’t come away with sympathy for the likes of Clyde Barrow (“Eastham Farm”), Doc Halliday (“The Face in the Mirror”), or Billy the Kid (“I Got a Gun”) and that certainly isn’t Morgan’s intention. Rather, within these bluesy, rollicking ‘folk’ songs one may find shades of family members, acquaintances, or even themselves: that point where a pivotal decision turns a life from the straight and narrow to the lure of less conventional and frequently violent.
Morgan comes by his storytelling-via-song bonafides genuinely. With familial roots in Appalachia, and a great-great aunt who was also A.P. Carter’s great-grandmother, story and song run through his veins. Morgan draws on American history—the Wild West, the Great Depression, and Prohibition—and its fascination with those who scoff the law (“D. B. Cooper Blues”) and conventions (“Wild One,” “Wanted Man”) to create a comprehensive overview of villains who—through the twists of time and the spin of history—became larger than life heroes and legends. He examines their influences and uses their own words to reveal the tension between good and evil, and the hope that redemption holds. “Waco” may be the finest individual song (“Lord, don’t let me go back to Waco, My soul burns every time I do”) with the pressure increasing as the protagonist threatens to come apart with each passing note.
Morgan doesn’t talk about himself a lot (his website bio is a list of a couple hundred folks from Pinetop Perkins through to the Carter Family, Guy Clark, OCMS, BR-549, Alberta Hunter, and Oscar Peterson) so one doesn’t know how he came to connect with guitarist Kenny Vaughan, bassist Dave Roe, or multi-instrumentalist Jim Hoke. Suffice it then to say that with this combination of talent, and the addition of vocalists Diunna Greenleaf (“Send Me To the ‘Lectric Chair”) and the timeless Maria Muldaur (“Soft and Tenderly, Jesus is Calling” and “I Done Made It Up In My Mind”), a pretty danged fabulous recording was assured.
Every bad man eventually runs out of road (“Running from the law in a piece of junk, with a sackful of cash and a body in the trunk,”) and the final third of the album—perhaps the most appealing—tackles the aftermath of these lives of selfish criminality. Some find redemption, some the wrong (right?) end of a gun—does it matter, when the crime has been done? Morgan appears to believe it does, and he devotes his closing songs to the seeking of salvation. Beautiful stuff, even if you may not believe—as he appears to—that sins can be washed away.
Scofflaw is a weighty tome, a creation melding the complexities of beauty and ugliness that few recording projects attempt let alone accomplish. It will be displayed in pride of place alongside The Man from God Knows Where, My Favorite Picture of You, Legacy, The Way I Should and other classic, contemporary folk recordings on my shelf. But, not yet—I want to listen again.
Thanks for dropping in at Fervor Coulee. Hopefully, you are finding music that appeals to you. Donald