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Country's Craig Morgan finds balance in new album

By Vernell Hackett

NASHVILLE, Tenn (Reuters) - When Craig Morgan found out that actress Angie Harmon of "Rizzoli & Isles" was a fan of his music, he asked if she would like to be a co-star in his video for "This Ole Boy." To his delight, she agreed.

"I remember her being hot when she was on 'Law & Order,'" the singer says, laughing as he talked to Reuters about the new album and video.

He went on to explain how the two connected.

"We had this mutual friend and they were talking about country music and she said she loved my music. She told him to tell me if I ever needed somebody in a video she'd love to do it. So when we were getting ready to shoot the video for 'This Ole Boy,' I called her.

"We've become friends. She and (husband) Jason (Sehorn) are wonderful people. We share a lot of the same interests, morals and values."

The two have already talked about having Morgan do a guest stint on her detective show on TNT, "Rizzoli & Isles."

Going in front of a camera for a role other than singing would not be foreign for Morgan, 47, who portrayed himself on an episode earlier this year of Lifetime's "Army Wives."

He also hosts Outdoor Channel's "Craig Morgan All Access Outdoors," which is in its second season. The show is a behind-the-scenes look at his life of music, riding, dirt bike racing and hunting as he celebrates his love for the great outdoors across the United States.

The single "Good Ole Boy" is the title cut from Morgan's new CD, the sixth of his 10-year career, which hit stores this week. The album is a balance of the singer's sense of humor and a more serious side that surfaces occasionally.

The title song is a story of a guy who realizes he has got the girl of his dreams and he better do something about it. Morgan said when he heard it for the first time, he had to call frequent co-writer Phil O'Donnell to see if they had written it.

"The song just felt good. It was a no-brainer because I thought if it feels that comfortable, then we should cut it. I felt like it was a song that would make people want to buy the album to see what's on the rest of the record. I've told people this ain't gonna cure no diseases, but it's a fun song that makes you feel good when you hear it."

Morgan, who is known for hits including "Red Neck Yacht Club" and "International Harvester," also has written songs that display a serious side.

TRUE WORDS

He won a songwriting award for his poignant "Almost Home," and paints a portrait of middle America with his slice-of-life tune "That's What I Love About Sunday."

In an era when critics complain that too many songs purport to depict a country lifestyle, Morgan is believable on his tune "Country Boys Like Me."

He brings a bit of romance with "Love Loves A Long Night" and "Summer Moon." He used funky production values to proclaim that he will have "Better Stories" than anyone else in a storytelling contest.

"Show Me Your Tattoo" is a song that gets close to Morgan's sense of humor, but it is the provocative "Corn Star" that is garnering a lot of attention.

"That's going to be the biggest hit of my career," Morgan said with a laugh. "When Jeffrey Steel and Shane Minor were writing it they called me and said I needed to be a part of it because it was right up my alley.

"People are loving it. I don't tell them the title, I just start singing it and they go 'Holy Cow!' It's huge. I really believe it will be one of the most memorable hits of my career -- it's that big.

Morgan sings: "They cut a four-lane highway right through her pasture

Blamed it on progress and movin' traffic faster.

Everybody knows the only reason for the road

Was to see her chug-a-luggin' on top of that tractor.

She's a corn star."

"I don't care who you are, you could live in New York City and you could envision every line of the song. I streamed it over the Internet when we were recording it, and now at my shows people come up to me and say 'Hey, I want to hear "Corn Star."' Or they'll ask me where they can buy it."

Morgan already has an idea who he wants to play the lead role. "I want Lady Gaga. I can see her in a corn stalk outfit."

The Tennessee native, a U.S. Army veteran, said this album defines him better than anything he has done.

"This whole album is a portrait of where I'm at in my life. From 'Show Me Your Tattoo' to 'Love Loves a Long Night,' or 'Stories,' that's just where I am.

"I'm just in a wonderful place and all of these songs together define me. And as much as they define where I'm at in my life, I think they can define an individual who is 15 years old or someone who is 50 or 70. I've never felt like I've had a better compilation of music that defines not only who I am, but who we are as a people who listen to country music."

(Editing by Andrew Stern and Bob Tourtellotte)

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