Check out the duo website at cahalenandeli.com
Cahalan and Eli are making music that the world needs.”
“This is quite extraordinary!”
-Bob Harris, BBC Radio 2
“Eli and Cahalen sing about all of it. No note is left unreflected upon.
They understand that when it comes to music, we are all on the receiving side,
even when we are the ones playing it.”
“There’s a subtle joy to be taken from the description of them given on their website as a “new-old time duo” but, to go one better, and listen to their album, “The Holy Coming of the Storm”, you may realise that Cahalen Morrison and Eli West have made quite an important album. Why important? Well, history shows us that some of the best-loved songs known to have been recorded have been the work of two people. In the Seattle-based pairing of Cahalen Morrison and Eli West, there appears to be a musical understanding not paralleled since the days of Flatt & Scruggs. For bluegrass enthusiasts, this album is a must-have. Provided that they continue in the manner which they’ve started, this act surely could attain success on an endless horizon. A total joy from the beginning to the end.”
-Peter McGee, Bluesbunny Music Reviews
“In just a few lines I can hear a country twang, a bit of the high Celtic sound, and it really sounds thoroughly American, the mixing of different musical traditions.”
-Jen Hitt, Bluegrass Country, WAMU 88.5
“The album builds around, at least in my mind, the tightly wound tensions and rhythms of the title track; a coming storm. In parts of the country, not Seattle, storms build in the same way and can be seen coming from the distance, bringing an unnerving and ominous feeling as skies redden and darken and the world battens down the hatches. In those final quiet moments before it lets loose this album was born and lives. There’s a sparseness too it, an echoing quality that would sound marvelous in Chaco Canyon.
I will also say this, often acoustic old-time albums are not perfectly played. Notes are missed, or bent up when they should have gone down. Harmonies waiver from the melody, banjo rolls drift momentarily out of sync. Sometimes this is charming and fun in a raucous sort of way. Other times, it is a distraction. On “The Holy Coming Of The Storm” there is not a missed note, a false line, or a haphazard slip left behind. This records is an intentional one and all the better for the care these men took polishing it. It shines.”
Iaan Hughes, The Real Mr. Heartache
“One gets the feeling that either of these musicians could step forward and take over with emphatic, egocentric playing and singing. Instead, they seem to have a profound reverence for the music and a considered appreciation for the whole of their endeavors.”
-Dustin Ogdin, No Depression
“Some wonderful stuff here,”
-Frank Hennessy, BBC Radio Wales
“In a city and era that can seem crowded with ‘genericana,’ there’s no chance of Morrison & West getting lost amongst the new crop of beards in Ballard. Because when someone says Morrison & West are of another era, they’re not talking about warm Laurel Canyon harmonies; they’re talking dust-bowl dirges, lightening-quick finger-picking on a clawhammer banjo, and twang that recalls tintype portraits. Morrison & West’s vocals are more like Dan Tyminski, than Graham Nash.”
-Abbey Simmons, Sound On The Sound
“A really superb album with a real depth of emotion in the performance that you don’t always get in this type of music. Yes, they’ve got all the licks and tricks you’d expect of top class musicians, but there’s something a little bit deeper here – an indefatigable purity which isn’t all about the technical know-how -but just from the heart”
-Bruce MacGregor, Travelling Folk, BBC Radio Scotland (and Blazin’ Fiddles)
“The easy critical impulse is to point out that Cahalen Morrison & Eli West sound like they’ve stepped out of a crackly record or wax cylinder from the 1920s. And it’s easy for a reason: They’ve got the kind of classic voices that beautifully complement roots music and, sure, they stick to the old-timey instruments. But any schmuck can chew on a corncob pipe and call it a nostalgia act. Morrison & West can write gorgeous, solid songs with harmonies that’ll wake you up in the middle of the night when your subconscious remembers how fine they are. That kind of songwriting isn’t nostalgic. It lasts, is all.”
-Paul Constant, The Stranger, Seattle
After a long four days in Aaron Youngberg’s studio in Fort Collins, Colorado, the new record has been mixed and mastered, and Eli and I have just released it for digital download, at cahalenandeli.bandcamp.com
The album is produced by Matt Flinner, who also lends his hand on mandolin, bouzouki and tenor guitar. It also features Ryan Drickey on fiddle, Eric Thorin on upright, Aaron Youngberg on banjo, Eli on guitar, bouzouki and clawhammer, and myself, on clawhammer, mandolin, bouzouki, guitar and lap slide. It features 12 originals, and two traditional tunes.
We will be releasing the (physical) album in the coming months, first available at the first ever Seattle Folk Festival, on December 12th, followed by a proper CD release show, still to be announced.
Then, come January, we will be doing a two week record release tour in Colorado, which I’ll update you about as soon as the tour is done being booked!
Cahalen Morrison – Old-Timey & New-Fangled (Independent)
Plucking and strumming a multitude of unplugged strings, and singing his songs of everyday living and the new dustbowl experience, it’s safe to assume that Morrison’s primary influences aren’t the landfill singer-songwriters currently clogging up daytime radio with their cloying odes to perfect love and tearful loss. His bio makes claim to a musical education steered by Doc Watson, Norman Blake and Rory Block. Add to those names others like Guy Clark (his early songs in particular) and the delta musings of Kelly Joe Phelps, and the consequences are old school country, folk and blues, though sung with the voice of the rural white working classes, rather than cotton fields and urban decay. Not the easy references one would expect from a young singer-songwriter, just turned 24 years old. Old-Timey & New-Fangled sounds like it was recorded before a small but fervent crowd, though it may just be the reaction of his excellent Family Band acknowledging the end of songs with natural enthusiasm. They’re a talented bunch, and none more so than Morrison, whose vocal dexterity and songwriting prowess matches his musicianship. The material, original as far as I’m aware, is brilliantly evocative of times past and lives up perfectly to the album’s title. I hope there’s UK dates somewhere on the horizon.
Most of us players should be humbled by Cahalen Morrison, the 24 year-old Seattle-based guitarist, singer, blues and old-timey interpreter, and multi-instrumentalist (six-string fingerstyle, claw-hammer banjo, mandolin, and lap slide guitar for starters). If not humbled, we are curious; how did the former New Mexico resident attain this kind of musical maturity at twenty-four? His biography explains somewhat: Amongst red rocks, dry soil, and clear sky, Cahalen Morrison was reared on Hot Rize, Doc Watson, Norman Blake and Rory Block while running around in a diaper, trying (at times unsuccessfully) not to fall into patches of prickly pear. Now, he’s got the ears for roots music. Hopping effortlessly from fingerpicking to mandolin, clawhammer banjo to lap slide guitar, Cahalen’s writing encompasses everything from punchy political commentaries, to soul warming serenades, branching out into instrumental rags and fiddle tunes, yet still retaining his subtle musical signature.
Though only 24, he is quite well traveled, having toured nonstop for 2 years after his debut 2008 release, Subcontinent. In November of 2009, Cahalen released his second record, a live 16-track album entitled Old-Timey & New-Fangled featuring his father Dave Morrison on guitar and fiddle, Santa Fe fiddler Andy Cameron, and Jenny Fisher on harmony vocals. OT&NF was recorded live on August 14th, at the historic Western Jubilee Warehouse Theater in downtown Colorado Springs. I hear a bit of early Jonathan Edwards in the Morrison’s vocals. He sings confidently, with a warm and deliberate inflection that brings authenticity to his original traditional and old-timey styled ballads. The voice of Jenny Fisher doing harmonies is superb; never taking front stage, but adding beauty to the lyrics and filling the spaces with her soft, textured vocals. The acoustic instruments seem to be amplified at least partly by microphones, giving this live album truly superb traditional vibes. No twang here. The backup musicians do a stellar job of supporting the songs, complimenting the vocals melodies, and leaving them out front so we immerse ourselves in the Morrison’s songwriting and delivery. There are few albums on the blog that I recommend more highly than Morrison’s Old-Timey and New Fangled. Buy your copy now.
-John O’Hara, Call it Folk