Back in 2014 Blabber’n’Smoke enthused about Cahalen Morrison‘s offshoot album under the guise of Country Hammer . Morrison is best known as one half of Morrison & West, prime purveyors of bare boned roots music but Country Hammer saw him head into honky tonk dance music, joyous and tear stained, rooted in Hank Williams with a touch of The Band, Morrison aided and abetted by chums Jim Miller and Ethan Lawton. Now Country Hammer has evolved into Western Century, essentially the same trio but with a more democratic spread across the writing and with Miller and Lawton more in evidence on their respective lead vocals. Morrison, Miller and Lawton deliver here a tremendous album that is cooked in a delicious stew brewed from Waylon Jennings grit filled barnstormers, tear filled ballads and some of that old cosmic cowboy music from the seventies with several of the songs reminding us of The New Riders Of The Purple Sage and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
The trio swap various guitars and share drum duties with bass supplied by Dan Lowinger along with stellar pedal steel throughout from Rusty Blake and fiddle from Rosie Newton on nine of the twelve songs. A versatile bunch they can tackle with ease outlaw honky tonk on What Will They Say About Us Now, Big Pink romps like Knocking ‘Em Down, tear and beer stained ballads on Sadder Day or the gliding country rock of The Long Game. Newton’s fiddle and Blake’s pedal steel dart and dash over the steady beat with occasional twanged solos while the three vocalists add more variety to what is an already varied set. There’s a cornucopia of delights to be found here with repeated listening throwing up new favourites each time. A casual airing might find the light and breezy tones of Philosophers And Fools and In My Cups a balm on a summer day and Sadder Days just right for those who like to be reminded of George Jones’ like lachrymose broodings. Anyone hankering after The Band will love Rock Salt and The Long Game, the spirit of Levon Helm surely residing therein. Closer attention pays dividends however as lyrically all three writers excel, at times deconstructing or updating the familiar tropes of country music. Philosophers And Fools is a break up song that challenges Sturgill Simpson’s metaphysical leanings and is surely the first country song to mention Tinder. The truck driving intro to What Will They Say About Us Now leads into a song about a mid life crisis while the halting and slightly off kilter love song Off The Shelf is wonderfully sung by Lawton not to a woman but to his first hit of booze in the morning.
Weight Of The World is, quite simply, a delight. Country rock heaven for anyone into Gram or The Band or even The Dead back in their Workingman days along with more recent stalwarts such as Sturgill Simpson or Ryan Adams.