Cahalen Morrison and Eli West play a strain of high-energy acoustic music that incorporates the frenetic finger work and instrumentation of bluegrass, yet deviates somewhat from that genre’s rigid song structures. With their twining voices evoking the high, lonesome sound of classic country music, the songs are indisputably old-timey, while impeccable instrumental chops ensure that the tunes will never sound stale. Morrison flits among banjo, mandolin, bouzouki and guitar with equal felicity, while West carries on with guitar, bouzouki and banjo. Other musicians add fiddle and bass.
The songs are consistently excellent, with many standout tracks. Opener “Lost Lovin’ Gal” sets the tone, while “Fleeting Like the Days” carries a vaguely British folk vibe. The duo shows its range, with expressive voices carrying the a capella “My Bloody Heart” nicely offset by instrumental stomper “Cutting In/Weymann’s Last Run”, in which the stringed instruments weave a web of sound that’s as breathtaking as it is captivating. “Won’t Be Long” manages to be grave and playful at the same time, a result of its somber lyrics carried over a galloping, playful rhythm.
The city of Seattle isn’t exactly famous as a bluegrass hotbed, but this may change if the likes of this record keep coming. Recorded in three days, the album carries a freshness that can only come from excellent musicians fired up by playing together and pushed to do their very best. Here’s hoping for more.