by Dan Radin
Everyone loves a local hero. ESPECIALLY in Texas.
DFW-native Maren Morris continued her triumphant return to her home state on Saturday. On a beautiful, balmy evening at the outdoor Whitewater Amphitheater, Morris showed the crowd how she celebrates spring under the Texas stars.
“I can’t count the times and the memories I’ve come down to float the river, playing music… This is the only outdoor venue on the tour. I just love everything about Texas culture,” she reflected to the hollering, boot-wearing concert-goers.
Morris’s powerhouse vocals boomed through the valley, showcasing the monstrous soul of her pop-country voice. Her backing band nailed everything from guitar tones to steady backing singing, under the polished groove of a Nashville ensemble. As the leader, Morris herself rose to the occasion (literally, rising on a lift from below the stage to start the show), and carried the momentum of her all-empowering album “Girl” to her live production.
When the video screen backdrop wasn’t magnifying Morris’s bedazzled boots and neon-lime top, it showed snippets from the “Girl” music video and supporting capitals (“DON’T LOSE YOUR HALO”). The message resonated loud and clear- a little girl to my right sang every single word from her perch atop her father’s shoulders. In true country fashion, Morris’s songs come to life through her storytelling.
Once upon a time, a record exec didn’t want to promote a “sad song” of Morris’s. She spent the ensuing weeks fighting the stigma behind negative feelings. “Oh my goodness. No, people,” stood Morris. “Don’t think there’s anything wrong with being sad. There’s nothing wrong with sad songs. When you hear songs like that, you don’t feel more sad, you feel like… ‘Wow, someone else felt like this too’… anyway, he got fired, and this song went number one.” Morris’s story then swung into an acoustic guitar and cello-only arrangement of “I Could Use a Love Song.”
Opener and fellow Texan RaeLynn gave the impression of a talented young woman who herself had taken up study of Morris. She joined Morris for a spirited duet on “All My Favorite People,” where the two seemed very much at home.
“I always will be a Texan at heart,” staked Morris before her last song. “Even though I pulled a George Strait and now hang my hat in Nashville, I miss the music culture here. And as a teenager on the festival circuit, seeing Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers. There’s really no place like this.” She wrapped her main set with her radio singalong, “My Church.”
While encore smash “The Middle” thumped, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there were other young Texans in the crowd who will follow in Morris’s footsteps; who will leave homes they love to follow their dreams. As we turned to leave the venue, the little girl on her dad’s shoulders looked down at me and smiled.
A Song For Everything
To Hell and Back
All My Favorite People (with RaeLynn)
I Could Use a Love Song
Make Out With Me
Flavor Great Ones