The rising star of the Outlaw scene engages in a shootout on the Sunset Strip for the heart and soul of country music.

For the confederacy known as pop country to collapse and to abolish the artistic slavery in the country music genre, fans have chosen General Whitey Morgan to lead the charge. The “pop country versus outlaw country” argument would seem so “2015” except for the fact that it is a fight that Morgan, himself, helped pick.

The Roxy Theatre has seen a lot over its history, as one of the most famous music venues on the Sunset Strip. But a line adorned in t-shirts with quotes like “Jason Aldean sucks and His Fans are Stupid” or the popular Whitey Morgan design with the big bold letters “F*$#k Pop Country” had to be somewhat intriguing. Most people just wear another band’s concert t-shirt, not an entire billboard of musical frustration, on their chest.

Just out of shoulder surgery and with a new baby boy named Wyatt, Morgan has good reasons for skipping the Roxy show before moving on to the Stagecoach Country Music Festival the following day. However, with a “Buick City” work ethic and a killer band, ready to roar, pigs would have to fly to stop him.

Whitey Morgan and the 78’s are 2014 Ameripolitan Award winners for Best Outlaw Band for good reason. They’ve also done hundreds of shows together, the old-fashioned way, so babies and pain meds are probably nothing he can’t handle.

Morgan has never backed away from a talent-packed opening artist to let crowds know he is a music fan, period. This time, he brings Ft Worth’s own bandit songwriter, Cody Jinks. Jinks’ song “Cast No Stones” spread like wildfire throughout the hungry “not-pop-country” scene in 2015. Most of Jinks’ music probably rings truest to those who grew up with the red dirt life, but his lyrical craft puts him right in line with peers like Sturgill Simpson and Margo Price.

Jinks flew his parents in for the show and honored his mother with ““Mama Song,” a personal story about his struggles in LA as a metal head musician and how his praying mother bailed him out, more than once. Since he now seems to be well into his real calling, we all owe many thanks to her.

Jinks sang his song “David,” a moving, smoky portrait of what boyhood, manhood, and loss look like around the plains. Other songs talk about the struggle of farm life in these parts, and even the wrestling match that goes on between the Christians and, well, the “better” Christians.

By the time Jinks got to “Cast No Stones,” his father had already made his way through the audience shaking hands like everyone already knew him, and some did. Adorned in a white dress shirt, starched Wranglers, and a black Stetson (totally opposite of his black-bearded offspring in a Motorhead t-shirt), he made his way to the front of the crowd to sing along with his boy. It was a touching thing to see this kind of family pride front and center. As the curtain fell to separate them, father held on to son, knowing that Jinks may never see this sweet spot of success again as he moves on to the many Stagecoach fans.

Then came the General. Like a born leader, Morgan took the stage with a loud kick drum that has become his signature. His high-energy version of “Me and the Whiskey” by the Damn Quails was his opener and is on his latest album, Sonic Ranch. The koozie-clad audience held them up high as the perfectly tuned and timed 78’s filled the Roxy with the kind of music only Michigan can bring. The 78’s are a perfect fusion of Southern Rock, with it’s screaming guitars, and the historical Bakersfield Country sound with its bone-rattling bass.

Morgan’s original songs, “Crazy” and “Honky Tonk Angel,” seemed to be the evening favorites. But when Morgan brought Jinks out again for the George Jones cover of “Choices,” the dancing ceased for a close listen. The harmonizing ability of the 78’s is spectacular but often overlooked because of each musician’s individual contributions to the sound, and Morgan’s generosity in showing off that unique ability.

It is unlikely that Morgan’s militia of Outlaw soldiers is going anywhere, even as he climbs to more commercial status. For just short of a year, both Jinks and Morgan have been signed with Paradigm, the monster talent agency that also represents a wide variety of artists from Billy Jo Shaver to Aerosmith. Jinks’ new album is due out in August, and Morgan has recently expressed lack of interest in continuing the battle, possibly because Honky Tonk artists are now trendy and branding “outlaw” is becoming profitable, again. However, don’t compare him to peacemaker Chris Stapleton just yet. I have a feeling we haven’t seen the last of Morgan’s middle finger.

Whitey Morgan and the 78’s
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Cody Jinks
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The Roxy
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