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Cahalen Morrison & Country Hammer

The Flower of Muscle Shoals – 2014 (Free Dirt)

Reviewed by Greg Yost

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CDs by Cahalen Morrison & Country Hammer

Traditional country music fans have a new reason to smile thanks to the Seattle-based singer/songwriter Cahalen Morrison. "The Flower Of Muscle Shoals," Morrison's latest offering and his debut collaborative effort with supporting band Country Hammer, is chock full of the stuff that makes traditional country music both distinctive and great.

Getting things started is "Nighttime Is Here On The Valley," a muted rodeo ballad. The mournful pedal steel and the quiet shuffle of brushed drums match Morrison's dusty western lyrical imagery and could easily reflect familiar scenes and feelings from his own childhood in New Mexico.

Next, Morrison knocks out a tidy and stripped-down little piece of western swing on the title track, a song the artist penned for his wife. Mary Maass's meandering fiddle work steals the show on this song by providing a nice counterpoint to Morrison's vocals while mirroring the flow of the rivers referenced throughout the song.

Both "I've Won Every Battle, But I've Lost Every War" and "Through Your Window" are tortured looks at lost love - the kind of songs that conjure images of sad bar patrons drowning their sorrows in the bottle. The latter track bears a faint musical resemblance to the Gram Parsons/Bob Buchanan classic "Hickory Wind."

Just in case this album wasn't diverse enough already, Morrison and company drop a little accordion on both "Hobbled And Grazing" and the irresistibly catchy "San Luis" that adds a little Mexican/Cajun flavor to the proceedings.