Traditional acoustic music is a cold, dead fellow. Long live traditional acoustic music. Parents take warning, this is what happens when you raise your offspring listening to Hot Rize, Doc Watson, and Norman Blake. This is what happens with those idle hands. They could have been house carpenters, engineers, mathematicians, social workers. No.
The new album, “The Holy Coming Of The Storm,” by Cahalen Morrison and Eli West is a beauty; perfectly picked, fine harmonies, deep and lovely songs, mostly original, traversing bloody hearts, jealous seas, and rocky shores. These aren’t offhand flourishes, or simply lyrical show-offs in the old-time vein, but rooted meditations with forward intentions of this aged American music. This is music that was largely lost in the old world of jewel cases, but destined to be rediscovered in digital downloads.
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 to 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 record is an intentional one and all the better for the care these men took polishing it. It shines.
Post Script ~ A fine Hearth Music link on the duo.