Gary Morris provides a case in point of how you can take the country out of the boy. During his 65-minute early show at the Crazy Horse in Santa Ana on Monday, Morris crooned tunes and caressed and rocked them. But with the exception of his first encore, "Never Stop Lovin' You," there was nothing much country going on.
This isn't to say that Morris may not be, technically, one of the best singers working out of Nashville today. But his stints in such Broadway productions as "Les Miserables" and "La Boheme" have left him with a studied delivery and emotive attack that have little to do with the natural soulfulness that best informs country music, where Morris launched his ever-expanding, multifaceted career.
Morris is still singing country songs, but they're almost unrecognizable now. "The Wind Beneath My Wings" has become a soaring ballad; "Baby Bye Bye" has undergone a doo-wop treatment, and his funky, chunky rave-up treatment of "That's The Way It Is" owes more to the rock charts than to anything else.
A shift in style would not be inherently troublesome if executed effectively, but the bigger problem was that Morris seemed to play everything way too safe, relying less on musical sparks than on his suave male wit. (Although this may have been exaggerated Monday because the show was being taped for a radio rebroadcast.)