Add a layer of gritty LP or 78 rpm surface noise to these tracks and voilà, Cahalen Morrison’s and Eli West’s The Holy Coming Of The Storm might pass as a newly rediscovered old-time duo from the early years of bluegrass. One thing, though, that might make you wonder is that, while the music is comfortingly familiar, there are few familiarities—12 of the 14 songs are originals by Morrison (one co-written with West).
Morrison and West hail from Washington State, and even if they might be more familiar with the geography of the Cascade Mountains, their sound is deeply reminiscent of the Appalachians. They’re augmented by fiddler Ryan Drickey, bassist Eric Thorn, banjoist (on one cut) Aaron Youngberg, and producer Matt Flinner’s tenor guitar, mandolin, and bouzouki. Besides their unpolished and accurate, appealing singing, Morrison and West (collectively) play guitar, clawhammer banjo, bouzouki, mandolin, and lap slide guitar.
The themes of these original songs will be familiar to all old-time and traditional bluegrass lovers, as will their approach. Soloing is clean, but always at the service of the tune, and even the handful of instrumentals hew close to the old-timey ethos of feeling before flash. But, there’s nothing self-consciously “retro” here. This sounds like the music they love to sing and play, and Morrison and West do so beautifully. (Hearth Music, 14879 6th Ave. NE, Shoreline, WA 98155, www.cahalenandeli.com.) DR