By MIKE HUGHES
Times Leader News Editor
There's country music and then there is what passes for country music.
One can be found playing on country radio no matter where you drive. The other, well, that takes a little more effort in finding.
Those traveling to Toledo's Huntington Center on Friday night, or for that matter The Village Idiot in Maumee are going to get a heavy dose of the good stuff.
The Legendary Bob Seger is taking the Huntington Center stage for his second performance. The first was Wednesday night.
Opening for Seger is one of the more authentic country bands you'll come across, Whitey Morgan and the 78's.
After opening for Seger, Morgan and his band are heading down the road to Maumee to play a show at The Village Idiot.
Morgan also opened for Seger on Wednesday night but needed to get the go-ahead before doubling up tomorrow.
"We have to wait to get the OK from Seger's management," Morgan said earlier in the week during a phone interview while plans were still being finalized. "They don't like when you do two shows in the same town. Maumee is just right down the road and it's smaller, so hopefully they'll let us do it."
Two shows in one night? Not a problem for Morgan and his band. It's another chance to bring their brand of country music to the masses.
And while country radio my be steering clear of Morgan's brand of country music, his legion of fans isn't.
It's been more than two years since their last album, a self-titled release put out on Bloodshot Records, hit stores. Yet, Morgan and the 78's play more than 200 shows per year to packed crowds screaming for more.
The good news is not one, but two albums will likely be available by year's end. One is already completed and is just waiting on the record company to release it.
"It's been done for eight months now but it hasn't been put out yet," Morgan noted. "While out on tour, we've been recording acoustic little bit of steel, fiddle, it's real stripped down.
"It's kind of old school, recorded in hotel rooms. It's a little spare project of mine that we've worked on in our spare time.
"We're also going to start working on a studio album and hopefully have it out in the fall."
If there's one thing that Morgan is, it's old school.
From his long hair and beard to his telecaster and baritone vocals with a occasional low growl for added emphasis, Morgan appears to be channeling Waylon Jennings.
But this isn't an act folks. This is authentic country music, from the sound to the lyrics to the man himself.
Morgan's first two releases are a mixture of self-penned tracks and a few covers that he and the 78's make their own. Take 'Bad News' for example. First sung by Johnny Cash, Morgan and his band gave it their own twist, added a little more serious feel to it and made it their own.
"After you go to the trouble of recording the song and playing it every night, it starts to feel like it's already yours," Morgan admitted. "Most people don't know who wrote the song and it feels good to know the song's being done authentic. The way it's coming across, you're giving it its proper due."
The same goes for Morgan's originals like 'Turn up the Bottle,' 'Hold Her When She Cries,' and 'I Ain't Drunk.'
There's nothing fancy about the lyrics. They are straight forward, honest and easily relatable. The same can't be said for much of what constitutes country radio today and its bland, cookie-cutter songs. Some even appear like a checklist of what makes someone "country" as opposed to lyrics that speak to you.
"It's ridiculous," Morgan said. "How many buzz words can you put in one song.
"Dirt road, pickup truck, a six pack it's corny, but people eat that stuff up.
"It's obviously so contrived. It's fill-in-the-blanks songwriting."
"It reality, it's not country music. We all know it isn't," Morgan added. "But you can't fight it. It's a billion dollar machine."
So Morgan's not fighting it.
He simply hits the road and brings his music to an appreciative audience with an ear for the authentic.
Outlaw country, honky-tonk music, barroom country whatever you want to call it, make no mistake, Morgan and his band are playing country music. It's real. It's genuine. And what more can you ask for than that?
Hughes may be reached online at firstname.lastname@example.org