Pop Goes the Country, with Edge

Ascending Pop-Country Star Morgan Wade Passes through Santa Barbara’s Lobero Theatre

Morgan Wade performs at the Lobero on March 25 | Credit: PR Brown

Strong country up-and-comer Morgan Wade, who swings by the Lobero Theatre on Saturday (March 25), sounds like someone who’s been around some. Her magnetic, rough-edged voice can sound a bit road-toughened and life-weathered as she sings about “Wilder Days,” the instantly infectious hit from her 2021 album Reckless, a hit which has bumped her up into the up-and-coming quarters of the Country scene.

Wade, who has soared out of her hometown of Floyd, Virginia, boasts a bio trajectory including her own wilder days, a coming clean/going sober chapter (check out her confessional song “The Night”), and all the makings of a country singer’s redemptive narrative. Did we mention that she’s all of 28? Kids these days. Or is it certain Southern kids these days?

As a compelling singer and songwriter with a finger on a collective emotional pulse, Wade has struck a chord with fellow twenty-somethings, and fans and critics of all ages. Her musical saga began in college as an escape after a breakup, leading to her first album, Puppets with My Heart (credited to her backup band, The Stepbrothers). The advocacy of Sadler Vaden, guitarist for Jason Isbell’s The 400 Unit, helped earn Wade her proper respect and a proper showcase with her album Reckless for the respected label Thirty Tigers.

Voila, “Wilder Days,” and her smart, punchy, and artful sound has attained the desired status of a hit with critical kudos to go with it, as Reckless earned end-of-year lists on the order of Rolling Stone, the New York Times, and THE FADER. An expanded version of the album, with such bonus tracks as her cathartic new take on Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds,” was reissued last year.

A musician with plenty of soul, blues, and grit in her twang recipe, Wade has explained, “I didn’t know anybody like me when I was a kid, listening to music. That’s why I fell in love with Elvis, that raw emotion. He held nothing back, and I loved that, so when I started writing, that’s where I went. I didn’t know you couldn’t. And to tell kids ‘do your own thing,’ that’s a bit much, but if I can show them something else? That might light a fire.”

In her youth, Wade says, “I’d spent so long being told, ‘Your voice is weird’ by other kids, and it’s such a pivotal time. They’d say, ‘What’s wrong with you? You can play for yourself but do it at home.’ And it helps, “because you do it for you.” Morgan Wade performs at the Lobero Theatre (33 E. Canon Perdido St.) on Saturday, March 25 at 8 p.m. lobero.org/events/morgan-wade


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