Morgan a perfect fit for Outlaw Snowdown

In its short existence, Pagosa Springs’ Outlaw Snowdown has grown into a nice little festival with a more than reputable lineup.

Last year’s two-day event brought a good crowd into the cozy and heated tent in Town Park and showcased local, regional and national acts. It was a great outing for the Pagosa locals, as well as a smattering of Durangoans who made the hour drive east in freezing temperatures.

This year should be as good or better. Eight acts will grace the main stage today and Saturday. Tonight’s lineup will feature Pagosa Springs’ Brooks-I Band, Durango’s Caitlin Cannon and the Artillery, Whitey Morgan and the 78’s, and Shooter Jennings, son of the outlaw country great Waylon.

Saturday’s lineup will include Chad Sullins and the Last Call Coalition, Fifth on the Floor, Ohio’s Lydia Loveless (who stole the show at last year’s event) and Mickey and the Motorcars. The latter has gained some traction in Durango as another Austin band gaining fans in the Southwest.

It’s tonight’s third act I’m most excited to see. Whitey Morgan and the 78s is one of a handful of national acts serving as the saving grace for country’s classic era of mid-’70s simplicity. Of all the indie country bands that are doing the retro thing – and there are plenty of good ones – I have yet to hear of anyone who pays the well-deserved homage to country icons like Waylon Jennings better than Morgan. He was born into it; the Flint, Mich., native was reared on the sounds of his musician grandfather. Flint took in loads of ex-Southerners moving north to work in the auto industry, and ironically, the town has seen the kind of luck they sing about in a down-and-out country song.

Morgan’s voice also is straight out of the early 1970s, more attuned to a coin-operated jukebox than some Internet-connected, dollar-a-song contraption. He remains a true-grit example for young musicians of a great era of country; a fresh, but also timeless, sound of the music before it devolved into Milli Vanillis in cowboy hats and politically conformist pop stars guided by suits making overproduced music videos of themselves water-skiing in Levis, and before Blake Shelton shoved his foot in his mouth blasting the country of decades ago.

But moaning about old vs. new country is something Morgan won’t feed into; he simply doesn’t have time to fuel the battle.

“For some reason, I started out being a bitter younger musician, and now that I’m getting older, I’m actually less bitter, which doesn’t make much sense,” Morgan said from his Michigan home. “I’ve become a lot more open-minded about things. I have given up on the whole being (angry) about the Nashville machine, the country music or whatever they call it that’s coming out of there. To me, I’ve learned to ignore it. There’s nothing I can do to fix it, I’m doing my thing, and hopefully, it will make a bit of a difference in the end.” Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager.