FAME Review: Cahalen Morrison & Country Hammer - The Flower of Muscle Shoals
Cahalen Morrison & Country Hammer - The Flower of Muscle Shoals

The Flower of Muscle Shoals

Cahalen Morrison & Country Hammer

Free Dirt Records - DIRT-CD-0071

Available from Free Dirt Records.

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

Here is a pleasant surprise for people who have or have not been following the old-timey journey of Cahalen Morrison & Eli West. Something that isn't—old-timey, that is. Evidently Morrison wanted a break and put together a band to allow his country alter ego a chance to shine. If you like his vocals with West, you get the same voice in a somewhat different setting—the honky-tonk. It is not all honky-tonk music, of course, although there are tinges of it here and there. What it is is the kind of music you used to hear in those taverns and bars—country with a lot of edges.

The first thing you have to know about me is that I love what Morrison & West have been doing. I grew up on the likes of The Blue Sky Boys and The Delmore Brothers and a whole shitpot of late-forties and early-fifties bands and artists (pardon the language, but that phrase is one I have always want to use because in the town I grew up, it was used as much as damn or hell and, truth be told, you just don't hear it much these days). I mean, what became later known as vocal bluegrass strikes a deep chord within me.

But this isn't that. This is country music. More than that, this is country dance music. Back in the old days, you see, music was nice to listen to but what it was really for was dancing. Not fancy dancing. A light waltz or a nice two-step or the occasional country swing step. You walk past any tavern in my hometown and what you saw inside were people drinking and dancing. And sometimes dancing and drinking.

When I close my eyes, I conjure up pictures of ladies in almost square-dancing attire, skirts fairly short and supported by slips which pushed the skirts away from the legs. On Friday and Saturday nights, you saw a lot of them. And guys duded up, too, but not to the degree they are these days. Lots of boots but not all of them cowboy. Shirts that stopped just short of cowboy. Jeans. Lots of denim. Legs. Lots of legs. Hey, I was a kid and didn't know why, but I loved those legs! And still do!

Musically, these guys are early Faron Young and Ferlin Husky and Ray Price and maybe even Lefty Frizzell and Ernest Tubb. Morrison put together a solid band—himself and Jim Miller and Robert Adesso and Mary Maass and Michael Thomas Connolly. Good players all. But what really salted it for me, besides the fact that Morrison is one talented guy, was the addition of Country Dave Harmonson on pedal steel. You see, Country Dave was largely responsible for Zoe Muth's original Lost High Rollers and, damn, that was one sweet lineup. You only have to listen to a track or two off of Muth's self-titled solo album to understand what I'm saying. Suffice it to say that Harmonson is pot-sweetener and musical binder all in one.

Had you asked me a year or so ago if I thought Morrison capable of putting out this album, I would have probably have said no, but that would have been my shortness of vision. All I had heard from him was on the three Morrison & West albums (all three excellent, by the way) and I expected nothing more, partially because they were so damn good at it. But after hearing The Flower of Muscle Shoals, I'm beginning to think that some people can just about do anything they want. Especially if they have bands like this.

Want to dance country? Here's the disc. You don't have to dance, but wouldn't it be a surprise to put it on and ask your significant other to dance? Like the old days. When people really danced. Then again, this is an album to listen to, also. Country Hammer, the band calls itself. Good music, good name. Good for Morrison.

Track List:

  • Nighttime Is Here On the Valley
  • The Flower of Muscle Shoals
  • Cascabel Valley
  • Sorrow Lines the Highway of Regret
  • The Delta Divine
  • Over and Over and Over Again
  • I've Won Every Battle, But I've Lost Every War
  • Our Love Is Like a Hurricane
  • San Luis
  • Through Your Window
  • Hobbled and Grazing
  • A Daisy In Tennessee
All songs written by Cahalen Morrison except "Through Your Window", written by Morrison and Robert Adesso. All songs and arrangements published by Hanktown/BMI (2014).

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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