Craig Morgan's new EP is much more than a duets album. The singer chose four hits and two new songs for Enlisted and recorded each one his way.

In at least one case, the result is an epiphany. In another, Morgan proves it's possible to take a stand without attacking a group of people.

Blake Shelton, Jelly Roll, Luke Combs, Lainey Wilson, Gary LeVox and Trace Adkins are his chosen collaborators. It's a lineup that's stolen headlines. The real story is in what this group of professionals created.

  • Enlisted dropped on Oct. 20 via Broken Bow Records.
  • Last summer, Morgan also enlisted (or re-enlisted) in the U.S. Army Reserves.
  • He's passionate about getting young people to join the military.

"What’s cool about this project," Morgan tells Taste of Country, "is I didn’t just enlist my fellow country singers. I called on people to sing some of my biggest hits that the song that I had them record with me, in some way they had a relationship with."

One or two examples are obvious. Shelton was in the music video for "Redneck Yacht Club," and who can forget Jelly Roll's emotional performance of "Almost Home" with Morgan at the Grand Ole Opry in July 2022?

Morgan says Wilson told him about days spent on a tractor with her father listening to "International Harvester," and LeVox admitted he was so upset Rascal Flatts missed a chance to record "That's What I Love About Sunday" that he spent a year singing it around the house.

attachment-Enlisted Craig Morgan Cover
Broken Bow Records

The new version of this song is a hair-raising gospel and R&B-fed moment that one only hopes has been captured on video. Morgan tweaked the melody and gutted the arrangement to satisfy his own impulses — turns out, he'd always wanted to sing it like he was at a revival.

At the end, the two men lead into few bars of "Amazing Grace." Ten years ago, Morgan tried that onstage, he says, and his band just went with him. It totally worked then and works now.

"I’ve always remembered how good that felt,” he shares.

"Some folks believe their TV is like the Bible / They think the Anthem is just another song / They won’t teach their kids to shoot their granddad’s rifle / Some don’t respect the dirt that they walk on / Well, that ain’t gonna be me."

"That Ain't Gonna Be Me" is the last of the six songs. It opens with a military drumroll and Adkins' familiar bass. While not a military song, Morgan admits he wanted someone known for a level of patriotism equal to his own.

“The objective behind this song was saying what we wanna say in a way that we hope it will inspire people," Morgan says. "I didn’t do this as a slap in the face or a kick anybody that don’t feel the way that I feel … I don’t think it’s something that people are going to take terrible offense to.”

That remains to be seen. In 2023, there seems to be a country fan willing to be offended by everything, and there have certainly been plenty of songs that provoke a (ahem) spirited discourse. Somehow, Morgan has always managed to let his fans know what he stands for without speaking out against a particular group or socio-political topic. That's not always easy, he'll admit.

"I’ve always worked under the mentality that you are not doing anyone any justice if you have to belittle someone else to raise your own profile," he says. "Having said that, sometimes it is difficult to not speak up. I mean, I’ve had to bite my tongue a few times.”

Someone may need to get him a mouthguard. Re-upping in the Army has — for the most part — been a tremendous experience, and Morgan has embraced working with younger recruits.

However, “It’s been a little getting back in to their way of doing things, which can be a little aggravating," he says. “They have to have a meeting about having a meeting."

"They" in this instance isn't just the Army or military, he adds, but the government in general. It's also not anything new.

"I get it. I’ve done it and I appreciate it, but after so many years of doing things differently — even in my old military days it was easier to get forgiveness than permission," he says, laughing.

No forgiveness need for the six songs on Enlisted. It's a rare career retrospective that's truly required listening.

The 50 Best Ever, Country Music Duets, Ranked

Country music is well known for its collaborations, and there is no shortage of duets within the genre's lifespan. But we've cut it down to 50 of the genre's most memorable duets over the past several decades, as you'll see here.

More From AM 950 KOEL