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Album Review: Cory Morrow – Vagrants and Kings

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When it comes to songwriting, Cory Morrow is like that guy at the party who keeps telling the same lame jokes over and over, while all of his friends look on, either too embarrassed or too kind to break the truth to him that he’s not funny in the slightest.

Vagrants & Kings, the Texas Country icon’s tenth album, is a mash-up of clichéd stories and painfully disjointed lyrics. It is an awkward moment that lasts an excruciating 51 minutes and 34 seconds, all of which Morrow spends oblivious to the fact that his attempts at wit fail miserably, his attempts at humor tragically, and his attempts at poignancy flatly.

It is rare indeed to encounter an album from an artist as well respected as Morrow (within certain circles) that contains as consistent a stream of utter rubbish as is found on Vagrants & Kings. “I Will Wait,” a four-minute and thirteen-second disaster which fails to form a single coherent thought, provides one of the album’s low-lights when it declares that, “You can change the light in the children’s eyes,” while the self-serving “All Said And Done” celebrates the fact that Morrow knows the names of a bunch of classic country songs.

From the disc’s opening track, “He Carries Me,” in which we learn that Morrow is, “Still seduced by the demons that make [him] weak” (and which features an appropriately cheesy, overly-emotional choir girl in the bridge), to lyrical turds like “Lonesome to the bone” and “This life can make your heart hard as stone” (”Love Finds Everyone”), to my personal favorite, “My baby and me, we like to stay out late/We drink in bars and roller skate” (”My Baby and Me”), and everywhere in between, Vagrants & Kings proves that the only thing worse than bad songwriting is bad songwriting that thinks it’s great.

And that is certainly the case here, as Morrow wraps all of this in oodles of slick, disappointingly mainstream production that plays up the drama to Rascalian proportions, all the while taking itself way too seriously. Morrow’s vocals are layered in an enthusiasm that is out of place at times, and simply annoying at others.

Morrow may be one of the Texas Country scene’s most heralded sons, but Vagrants & Kings is a trainwreck that possesses exactly zero redeeming qualities. It is an atrocious album that starts out bad and gets worse with every track.

Jim Malec is a journalist whose work has appeared in American Songwriter, Country Weekly, Denver Westword and others. He is the founder of American Noise and former Managing Editor of The 9513.

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