Concrete and Mud is the career-defining third album from Sam Morrow, sure to cement his place as a member of Los Angeles' country elite. It's rooted in Texas twang, southern stomp, and old-school funky-tonk. Recorded largely live in the studio on a vintage Neve 8068 console, it also shines a light on Morrow's strength as a songwriter, frontman, and bandleader. Musically, this is Morrow at his electrified, energetic peak. The sad-eyed sounds of Ephemeral and its 2015 follow-up, There Is No Map – both written during the early years of Morrow's sobriety – have been replaced by something more representative of Morrow's live show, in which he fronts a band of plugged-in roots-rockers.
There's balance, too. For every swaggering country rocker like "Heartbreak Man" or "Good Ole Days," there's a gorgeous, emotional punch to the gut like "San Fernando Sunshine" or "The Weight of A Stone." "Paid by the Mile" is full of 70s-worthy stomp and Southern swagger. "Quick Fix" is an infectious hook laden stew of syncopated beats with bubbling clavinet, slinky guitars and doubled vocals. Morrow croons one minute and growls the next with a sly nod to his influences while staking out new territory. From Lynyrd Skynyrd-friendly rockers like "Heartbreak Man" to the Little Feat-worthy grooves of "Cigarettes," Concrete and Mud boldly explores a wide range of styles and sounds.
There's also an undercurrent of classic country running throughout the mix. On "Skinny Elvis," Morrow sings with his longtime friend and frequent tour mate Jamie Wyatt, resulting in a throwback duet worthy of Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris' "Ooh Las Vegas." Jay Dee Maness, who performed alongside Parsons during the recording sessions for the Byrds' Sweetheart of the Rodeo, plays pedal steel on the track. Elsewhere, Morrow evokes Billy Joe Shaver's "Georgia on a Fast Train" with the sly yet cutting "Good Ole Days," proving you can take the man out of Texas, but you can't take the Texas out of the man.
Like his previous albums, Concrete and Mud was produced by songwriting partner Eric Corne, with Morrow playing a more active role in the recording process. The two took an experimental approach. Wurlitzers were run through phaser pedals. Farfisa organs were recorded through revolving Leslie speaker cabinets. Songs like "Cigarettes" were reinforced with throbbing mini-moog synth, while murder ballads like "Weight of a Stone" were laced with looping percussion and timpani flourishes. On "Paid by the Mile," Morrow and his band-mates kept the tape running during the song's final moments, stretching their legs during a long, loose jam session before segueing into the ceremonious intro of "San Fernando Sunshine." The result is the most adventurous album of Morrow's career!