FAME Review: Cahalen Morrison & Eli West - Our Lady of the Tall Trees
Cahalen Morrison & Eli West - Our Lady of the Tall Trees

Our Lady of the Tall Trees

Cahalen Morrison & Eli West

Available from Morrison & West's online store.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Frank Gutch, Jr.

Not too many can pull the feel of The Blue Sky Boys and The Delmore Brothers and even the comedy-less Homer & Jethro through the time tunnel anymore. Old-timey music has slipped into a black hole of sorts, handled more by the purists and preservationists than those who find the genre inspiring in terms of today. There are a few, Tim O'Brien being one, who hold the standard high, but only a few. Not that musicians forgot the genre. Just that only a small percentage of those playing it have the—what would you call it? Chops? Understanding? Ability? To really pull it off. To bring old-timey into the present. To properly warp the time.

You see, old-timey is possible in its purest form. You can duplicate the sound. You can play the old songs. But to seamlessly meld it into today's world is tough. It takes an uncommon feel for a past easy to mimic but so hard to meld into the present day. Tim O'Brien does it and the mere fact that he writes the liner notes lends Our Lady of the Tall Trees cachet.

I knew that Morrison and West had the goods when I first heard Holy Coming of the Storm, a collection of instrumentals and vocals seemingly time-tunneled from the past. Doing it once, though, can be a fluke. I've heard too many artists capture that elusive something once to either never capture the sound or feeling again or to step away to create something entirely different from that point on. I thought that maybe it might happen here. It could have. These two guys have talent up the ying-yang and could easily step in an entirely new direction. But, I am happy to say, they don't. Indeed, they embrace the genre more.

My favorite on this album shall remain my favorite. Loretta is one of those modern tunes I could have heard in the forties and early fifties by a Blue Sky Boys or Delmore Brothers, those standard harmonies wafting troubled times. I love that feel, that sincerity. It is so hard to pull off and Morrison and West do it so well. Of course, the album is not all depression era nostalgia. Songs range from straight on back porch bluegrass to just short of country and western to the odd mingling of bluegrass and jazz you occasionally hear but not really enough. Sometimes, it's just guitar and banjo or guitar and mandolin, but now and then they toss in a little something extra. Just enough. Never too much.

I've been sitting here listening while I write this, hoping for inspiration. I have stopped to listen more than I should have. This review should have been completed awhile ago but during certain songs and indeed certain movements it just feels a tad sacrilegious, the rhythm of the keys on such a different plane. So I stop and listen. That need to stop says a lot—about the artists and the music.

You can stream the album on the website listed at the top of this review. If you have a feeling for or a curiosity about what old-timey can be in this day and time, I heartily suggest you do so. I could sit here and type till the cows come home but all the words in the world will never capture what the music can make you feel. And that is what these guys are all about.

Track List:

  • Stone To Sand
  • A Lady Does Not Often Falter
  • All I Can Do
  • Loretta
  • Our Lady of the Tall Trees
  • The Cowboy
  • Potluck Dinner/Vicco Returns From Spain
  • Like a Stone
  • Church Street Blues
  • All For the Sake of Day
  • Heartland Sea
  • Red Prairie Dawn

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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