Cahalen Morrison and Eli West
Calahen Morrison, Eli West
Sophisticated, soulful, organic roots music. Discography to date includes their self-titled EP (2011), Our Lady Of The Tall Trees and I'll Swing My Hammer With Both My Hands (2013).
According to Calahen, he lies “somewhere in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle of bluegrass, old-time, and folk music”, and sounding something like “the laid-back playing you might have heard at Mississippi John Hurt’s fabled community BBQs back in the 1950s, with maybe a guest visit from Doc Watson”. As well as working as a solo artist, he also performs in a duet with talented multi-instrumentalist Eli West.
This fruitful creative partnership with Eli is a major part of Calahen’s present musical tapestry – the duet is constantly touring on a worldwide basis, and have released the highly acclaimed album ‘The Holy Coming Of The Storm’ together. It sounds like its been a fascinating and rewarding working partnership, which will continue for some time. “We've made huge strides,” he says, “just learning how to work with each other, and learning to read what the other person is going to do, musically. We have been playing some great festivals, and doing some great tours, like Pickathon, Sisters Folk Festival, Blue Waters Bluegrass Festival, and tours across the US, Canada and Europe.” It’s not all roses and sunshine, though, and the tried-and-tested artistic struggle has been present and correct too. “We have had our fair share of total, make-you-want-to-quit-music-forever-and-ever shows too.”
Any bad memories must be swept aside by the critical acclaim Calahen and Eli have been receiving, though. Legendary BBC Radio DJ and presenter Bob Harris has referred to them as ‘quite extraordinary’, while Tim O’Brien has boldly stated that “Cahalan and Eli are making music that the world needs.”
With such a niche sound, Calahen’s music – either his solo or duet efforts – seems to stand alone, timeless and detached, a scratchy-vinyl capsule from a different era. As such, surely he must be lacking in contemporaries, or the sort of ‘scene’ which some artists like to attach themselves to? “In the kind of scene we're in right now,” he reflects, “it seems to be folks like Crooked Still, who barely fit into the traditional categories, but get away with a lot of liberties and do both music from the general bluegrass and old-time catalogs, while also playing traditional music. And to be honest, there really doesn't seem to be that many folks doing it. Not to say that we are getting away with it, but, that's what we're shooting for!”
Here’s hoping Calahen keeps on shooting – either by himself or with a trusty, Eli-shaped marksman by his side!