This is one of those songs where reviewing it just feels unfair.
On July 10, 2016, Jerry Morgan, the son of 2000s-era country artist Craig Morgan, drowned in a boating accident in Tennessee. The tragedy took a heavy toll on the Morgan family, and Craig Morgan went silent for a few years despite releasing an album the month before Jerry’s passing. It’s the sort of pain that never really goes away, but after three years Craig is ready to open up to his world about his struggle with “The Father, My Son, And The Holy Ghost.” The song was powerful enough to earn the backing of fellow artists like Blake Shelton and Kelly Clarkson (not to mention the support of Broken Bow Records), and I’d certainly agree that the song is a solid piece of work, but I can’t help but feel like this song doesn’t quite live up to the hype it’s getting. I just don’t feel this one the way I’ve felt the best songs of this year, and while it’ll likely be in the upper third on my year-end list, it’s not strong enough to challenge for my top ten.
The production opens with a surprisingly contemporary feel thanks to the synth swells, slick electric guitars, and predictable church organ on the intro, but it gives way to an acoustic guitar, some background piano, and a simple percussion line for the first verse, and mixes in some fiddle, steel guitar, and some louder drums as the song goes along. (I really don’t like the drums here, as they spend the first chorus and second verse jumping the gun and trying to push along a song that does not need to be pushed.) Despite the sad story behind the song, the mix maintains a optimistic and spiritual feel, projecting confidence and peace in the fact that this family separation is only temporary and will be rectified in the afterlife. It’s a nice arrangement overall, but I don’t find it to be extraordinarily moving or emotional, and compared to some of the best stuff I’ve hear this year, it feels commonplace and even a bit lacking.
Going through something would age the best of us, but I was struck by how old and wearied Craig Morgan sounded on this track. Instead of the power and sharpness we got on tracks like “International Harvester” and even “Every Friday Afternoon,” Morgan’s voice is labored and more frail this time around. Much like with Toby Keith’s “Don’t Let The Old Man In,” however, this enhances Morgan’s believability—even if you hadn’t heard about the accident, you’d certainly buy that Morgan had gone through something serious. Even so, however, Morgan struggles to really convey the depth of his sorrow to the listener, and I found my reaction to the whole thing to be so minimal that I started cursing myself for reacting so coldly to the loss of a loved one. I just don’t feel Morgan’s performance the way I think I should in this scenario, and between the two of us I can’t tell where the blame for this lies.
Lyrically, I think there’s a good framework present, but the story just isn’t as fleshed out as I wish it were. The narrator is exactly who and where you’d expect them to be: At home, avoiding other people, and still trying to process what happened on that fateful day. There’s a surprising lack of detail here: This is a song written by Craig Morgan for Craig Morgan, so why not dive deep into the situation and take people through his journey through the stages of grief? (The one detail Morgan did include—his wife’s name—actually feels more out of place than anything else: Why call her “Karen” at first and then switch to the nameless “her” for the chorus?) This tale could be about any person suffering from any loss, and while that’s usually good for connecting with a broader audience, here it feels like it weakens the track’s impact, as statements like “I know my boy ain’t here but he ain’t gone” only land glancing blows instead of direct shots to the feels. (The second chorus also gets really repetitive: We get that you cried and then you prayed, so stop hitting us over the head with those phrases.) Thankfully, the track at least captures the narrator’s semi-defeated mindset (“Pour a cup of wake-me-up and try to rouse up some ambition”) and leaves enough handholds for Morgan (both as a producer and a performer) to elevate it, but they don’t lift it nearly as high as I expected.
I get that “The Father, My Son, And The Holy Ghost” was not written for critics, cynics, or even country music listeners in general. This was a track meant for aiding the healing process for Craig Morgan and his family, and nitpicking over the lukewarm sound and generic writing feels more than a little mean. Unfortunately, I have to admit that while I like the song, I don’t really love it, and I think it could have been a lot better. I’m glad to see Morgan back in action after his hiatus, but this track was more for him than it was for us.
Rating: 6/10. Give it a try. Here’s hoping it moves you more than it did me.