Regular readers will know that Blabber’nSmoke are huge admirers of Cahalen Morrison and Eli West whose three albums have been superb bare boned distillations of what one might call the high church of Americana. Their pure and simple sound of acoustic instruments allied with lonesome voices recalls the pioneers of country music and the land around them. Tradition just about sums them up (while at the same time selling them short as they are as current as any of the big Nashville hitters). Cahalen Morrison continues in this vein with this offshoot release, The Flowers Of Muscle Shoals, recorded with his band Country Hammer. While Morrison & West are rustic, hewn from the ground, here Morrison moves into the city and finds that musicians are plugging in, adding some swing, finding honky tonks to play in, adding some Western to his Country. It still sounds as old as the hills but this time the audience are not on a back porch, more likely they’d be huddled around a radio catching static and occasional Grand Old Opry airwaves. The Carter Family have given way to Hank Williams.
Morrison is ably assisted in this venture by the magnificent Country Hammer, a country super group of sorts with Jim Miller and Rob Adesso on Telecaster and harmony vocals, Ethan Lawton on drums, Mary Maass on fiddle, Country Dave Harmonson on pedal steel and Michael Connolly on bass and accordion. Together they offer tear jerking ballads such as Through Your Window which limps along as if it’s four in the morning and the band are still playing for the last couple on the dance floor rebounding from the earlier fiddle led heartache of Over And Over And Over Again and the desolate I’ve Won Every Battle And Lost Every War, a magnificent lament. There’s more heartache albeit with a jauntier step on Sorrow Lines The Highway Of Regret, some Honky Tonk heaven here and they continue in this sweet and sour vein with the rousing Our Love Is Like A Hurricane, fiddles flying and guitars fatbacking in the best Western Swing tradition. Morrison’s vocals are stained with a sepia soak, at times recalling the late Levon Helm, and when they launch into the Cajun influenced San Luis one could be forgiven for thinking this is a Band outtake.
Essentially The Flower Of Muscle Shoals is one of the best albums we’ve heard this year and it is heartily recommended.