Weight of the World
I am sure it is no coincidence that the debut album from Western Centuries vaguely resembles the self-titled release from a late 60s band of considerable Americana-roots influence.
Fronted by a trio of songwriters, each singing their own songs with distinctiveness, Western Centuries is a modern country band that encourages cerebral shifts as readily as it does two-stepping shuffles. Drawing inspiration from generations of country honky tonk singers and their bands, Western Centuries are as much a dance band as they are a concert feature.
Cahalen Morrison, familiar from his recent music with Eli West, reveals himself here to be a country singer of considerable heft. After spending substantial time trying to recall the singer Morrison reminds me of, I realized I was chasing Morrison himself: having listened to “Weight of the World” and “Philosophers and Fools” almost daily for a couple weeks, they had become so engrained that it feels as if I’ve been listening to them for years. At the same time, if one can imagine Doug Bennett fronting a country band, you may be close to hearing Morrison in your head.
Ethan Lawton provides an agreeable counter-point to Morrison. With less twang, Lawton voice doesn’t possess the edginess of his compatriot, and his neo-traditional songs reveal soulful colour. “Off the Shelf,” with washes of Rusty Blake’s pedal steel, is an achingly honest portrayal of devotion and need. Singing with barstool acuity in “Double or Nothing,” Lawton delivers the album’s finest line: “If youth is wasted on the young, we waste that wisdom on the aged.”
Jim Miller has a touch of Levon Helm in his voice, and songs like “The Long Game” and “Rock Salt” provide the album with its spiritual backbone. Singing a bit like John Wort Hannam, “Knocking ‘Em Down” features Miller “cryin’ as I sing your song,” searching for that which he may never have possessed.
A collective, each of the principals provide electric and acoustic guitar throughout the 45 minute recording, with Morrison and Lawton also doing duty behind the drum kit. Fiddle is provided by Rosie Newton and Dan Lowinger is the bassist.
Coming out of Seattle, Western Centuries is something many of us are continually pursuing—a genuine country band that doesn’t take the easy way reinterpreting familiar songs, but rather pushes their talents toward creating modern classics. Weight of the World is pert darn special, and receives Fervor Coulee’s highest recommendation.