Houston Music

Cory Morrow

Cory Morrow gave Music City the big ol' Texas middle finger with "Nashville Blues" on his last release. So why does he now sound even more like the mundane shite that drops from the Music Row assembly line?

Don't get me wrong, here. Morrow has some strong merits, if not monster talent. The boy can sing pretty durn well, albeit without the distinctive touch that brands a great roots music voice. He crafts melodically pleasing numbers that producer Lloyd Maines dresses up in their Sunday-go-to-meeting best. But given how he and his college buddy Pat Green wave the Texas music banner with such yahoo-ish fervor, what continues to amaze is how both sound and write so much like the stuff they say they're rebelling against. And conversely, if they're so adamantly Texan, how come there's no Lefty Frizzell or T-Bone Walker or Sir Doug or Lightnin' Hopkins here, much less the lyrical gifts of Townes Van Zandt? (A name the young bucks love to invoke.) If you're gonna talk the Texas music talk (or in their case, all but holler it), then you better walk as tall as needed, or at least strive to.

Though Morrow has backed off some from the obligatory Texana shout-outs and gratuitous shots of booze in his songs, his lyrics are generally the sort where you can guess the next rhyming word after hearing the end of the preceding verse. "Take Me Away," despite a small thematic twist, reads like a Hallmark card, as do "More Than Perfect" and "All Over Again." His rebel tune "Straight to Hell" unfolds like My First Book of Outlaws, and "Drinkin' Alone" doesn't even deserve to be sung in the same state in which "There Stands the Glass" is the standard alcoholic's lament. And for further evidence that Morrow doesn't quite get what his forebears have been up to, check his cover of the Grateful Dead's "Friend of the Devil." Lyle Lovett's eerie reading of it on Deadicated brought out its haunting subtext; Morrow's is a speedy redux of the original, more quick line of stepped-on blow than the Dead's toke of primo smoke. And the accordion-based Tex-Mex lilter "Dance by the Rio Grande" tastes more like Taco Bell than it does the prize-winning enchiladas of the Texas Tornados.

However, Morrow's "(Love Me) Like You Used to Do" is a catchy bit of rootsy folk pop that would actually enhance a country radio playlist, and probably sounds pretty nice on the car speakers. And "In Spite of Spite" finds him digging (if only with a spade) into the depth this disc yearns for. Morrow's better numbers certainly outshine the Nashville dross they resemble. He's well suited to making Music City music no matter how much he may bellow about Texas. The Cory doth protest too much, methinks.

As with Green, the burgeoning talent in Morrow is nearly all in the middle of the road, bereft of the essence that makes Texas music and songwriters so distinguished. Green and Morrow are leagues away from Guy Clark and even Texas collegiate songwriting übermensch Robert Earl Keen, and many miles behind the likes of Bruce Robison and Slaid Cleaves. But darned if Cory Morrow wouldn't spruce up the current Nashville sound nicely. Ironic, isn't it?

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Rob Patterson