Mike Morgan & The Crawl With Roger "Hurricane" Wilson Live At Stevie Ray's, Wed. Aug. 4, 1999

By Robert Gruber

A packed house at Stevie Ray's greeted Texas blues phenoms Mike Morgan & the Crawl on a sultry summer Wednesday. The Crawl, celebrating the release of their new BlackTop Records release I Like the Way You Work It! played two very long, solid sets of blues and soul-drenched boogie-woogie.

Fronted by Kansas City harp player Lee McBee, the Crawl has a very distinctive sound, loose, yet admirably cohesive, and they mostly play their own excellent originals, written by Morgan and McBee. Mike Morgan's style of playing is minimal - his trick bag is stuffed with a lot of the same things other players use - but it's all in how he works it, pouring out sweet emotion and an earnest desire to let it flow from his soul. His playing pays homage to a lot of the blues greats, such as Albert King, Magic Slim and SRV, but you're also liable to hear some Jimmy Page and Yardbirds-era Jeff Beck influence as well.

At one point, McBee took a well-deserved break and Morgan took over on vocals, delivering a rousing version of Hound Dog Taylor's "Give Me Back My Wig," tossing off some ripping slide riffs on his Danelectro. And while it was rather impressive when Morgan played guitar behind his neck on "What Did I Do Wrong," it was even more impressive when the bass player lifted up his "doghouse" bass and played it behind his neck! Lee McBee seems to channel the electric current that flows through his harp, then rides it like a wave. He pulls it up from the deepest recesses of the "blues pit" within - that part of the sub-conscience wherein words defy expression. Combined with his highly soulful lead vocals and gregarious stage presence, McBee is a huge talent, definitely making the Crawl a marketable draw.

Sadly, this will be McBee's last tour with the Crawl. He plans to spend more time off the road with his wife of 25 years and to work on some solo projects. While learning of his leaving the Crawl is a bummer, it should be noted that a past project by McBee, an album he did with Anson Funderburgh called .44, is quite awesome, so look forward to hearing what comes next from Lee McBee.

While I arrived too late to catch much of opener Roger "Hurricane" Wilson's set, what I heard was pretty amazing. He's a great slide player, and quite the fast-talking CD salesman, too. Well worth catching the next time he comes around.