Sunday 13 November 2011

The Holy Coming Of The Storm

The Holy Coming of the Storm
Cahalen Morrison and Eli West

Having thoroughly enjoyed Alison Krauss and Union Station in concert last week, fate followed up quickly with another slice of high-class bluegrass. Just as I was set on exploring more of the Krauss back-catalogue, I found myself repeatedly playing a new CD which arrived unexpectedly at Marsh Towers.

Cahalen Morrison and Eli West were new names to me so I wasn't sure what to expect from 'The Holy Coming of the Storm'. Gospel? Folk? Country...? There were touches of all three, but none of them offer an adequate description on their own.

In fact, the best description is probably one supplied with the promotional material: 'old-time music styled for the 21st century'. Contradictory? Maybe...but it's not so easy to explain the fusion between the authentic sound of old-time, soulful bluegrass and the thoroughly modern, fresh approach taken by the duo.

From the very first track, 'Lost Lovin' Girl', the strengths of this body of work are immediately apparent; it's all in the harmonies. As clawhammer banjo meets delicate, intricate guitar riffs, so the two vocalists compliment each other very nicely indeed.

Track list:

1. Lost Lovin' Girl
2. On God's Rocky Shore
3. My Lover, Adorned
4. Fleeting Like The Days
5. Weathervane Waltz
6. My Bloody Heart
7. Cutting In/Weymann's Last Run
8. Jealous Sea
9. Over There
10. Since You Took Your Leave
11. Won't Be Long
12. Kingsfold
13. I'll Not Be A Stranger
14. My Bloody Heart Reprise

The songwriting duties have mainly been fulfilled by Cahalen Morrison, with four exceptions. Tracks three and seven have shared credits with Eli West and 13 & 13 are under the 'traditional' umbrella.

The subject matter is familiar. We hear of lost love, desire, loneliness, and, as suggested by the title, coming storms, both real and metaphorical.

My favourites are 'On God's Rocky Shore', 'Fleeting Like The Days', and 'Jealous Sea' although there's nothing I don't like.

There's an impressive number of different instruments used on the CD, displaying the versatility of the musicians.

Cahalen: clawhammer banjo, bouzouki, mandolin, lap slide guitar
Eli: guitar, bouzouki, clawhammer banjo

Four more artistes are credited too

Ryan Drickley: fiddle
Eric Thorn: upright bass
Aaron Youngberg: banjo
Matt Filner: bouzouki, mandolin, tenor guitar

That's quite a range. When I encounter a musical showcase such as this, I like to concentrate while I try to focus on each individual instrument so I found it best to out everything else aside, plug the headphones in and really listen. I found that this approach gave me a very good insight into how the instruments interacted with each other and how cleverly the songs were constructed.

Cahalen and Eli (pictured above) are currently in the middle of a UK tour. This Thursday (17 November) they will be at The Cluny in Newcastle, which is where I saw Little Miss Higgins and The Wiyos earlier in the year.

For all of the other tour dates and further details of a general nature, please visit their official website.

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