Cahalen Morrison & Eli West 'I’ll Swing My Hammer With Both My Hands' - Self Release

Holding the familiar woodcut artwork of this album in my hands immediately let me know I was listening to the follow up to their excellent 2012 release Our Lady Of The Tall Trees and the also familiar clawhammer banjo opening on Fiddlehead Fern again welcomed me into one of the classier releases of the year to date. Fourteen tracks that weave a musical journey through old time, bluegrass, mountain, and pure country are a joy to listen to and to regularly reach for on my radio shows.

The first five tracks are clawhammer driven and set the pace until Natural Thing to Do at number six drags you straight in to the honky-tonk with as good a country song as I’ve ever heard. After that the styles twist and turn including Lorene by The Louvin Brothers, a gospel Green Pastures and Voices of the Evening by Alice Gerrard before  finishing with a fine fiddle reprise of Fiddlehead Fern.

Most of the rest of the songs are written by Morrison. Eli West and Cahalen Morrison are very accomplished musicians and singers capable of commanding the respect of the likes of Dirk Powell, Bruce Molsky and Tim O’Brien who produced this fine album, so who am I to argue. And I’ll keep this one close to the front of my record drawer for easy access.

Cahalen Morrison & Eli West 'Our Lady Of The Tall Trees' - Self-Release

Another album rooted in acoustic music and shaped by a history. The duo play clawhammer banjo, guitar, mandolin and bouzouki on a set of songs mostly written by Morrison, but with a couple of songs from Norman Blake and Townes Van Zandt. The latter's Loretta is given a poignant reading that does justice to the songs. The two sing in harmony with their sparse but effective picking. This sounds pretty much how you would expect to hear them delivering the songs in person.

The sound is universal and could have emerged in Ireland or the UK as easily as from the US. They cover a lot of land from the vast plains in the traditional The Poor Cowboy to Morrison's Heartland Sea to the closing instrumental Red Prairie Dawn. There is a sleeve note from Tim O'Brien which tells of the scope that two voices and some stringed instruments can have and that "a lot of faith and conviction" inherits their music.

If you like well written songs, played well in a fundamental fashion, then the music of Morrison and West will draw you in. Whether it's the tale of making music to make people smile in Church Street Blues or the traditional tones of Stone To Sand there is much to  absorb in the music made by this talented duo.