There’s a deeply vibrant joy about Cahalen Morrison and Eli West’s music and these characteristics crackled at this quite superb gig.
Musicianship this good is uplifting, mesmerising, magical and beguiling – it makes everyone smile with a warm feeling of being enriched by a celebration of remarkable talents, an exquisite musical union.
For 90 minutes, the new, old-time duo enthralled a packed house with exquisite harmonies and dueling fretwork embracing Cahalen’s delicious banjo or mandolin playing and Eli’s equally tasty guitar offerings. It was captivating throughout.
The arrangement for Off the Chama from their “I’ll Swing My Hammer With Both My Hands” album – the first track I played from it on Celtic Music Radio – was simple yet breathtaking, with both performers intuitively caressing the song and invoking nods of approval all round. The song – hypnotic and measured – was not a highlight: it was impossible to select any individual offering for such a title.
Pocketful Of Dust and Anxious Rows emerged from a flawless set list drawn up by the magicians from Seattle, who were joined at one stage by the revered, Grammy winner, Tim O’Brien, who produced “Hammer”. Their love of other artistes’ great contributions showed when they dipped into Townes Van Zandt’s admirable collection to offer up Oh Loretta and it skipped along with such vigour that the great Townes would surely have approved.
The support (pictured left) – headliners I reckon in their own right – Pharis and Jason Romero proved a resounding delight with twinkle-eyed, deft songs such as I Want To be Lucky (about moose, cougars and gambling) and It Just Suits Me perfect examples of the lingering pleasures that ooze from their superb 2013 release, “Long Gone Out West Blues”.
Resident in Pharis’ hometown of Horsefly, British Columbia, they are renowned banjo makers but have taken time to create a new album that’s due out in March. Titled “A Wanderer I’ll Stay” this will certainly be on the “must buy” lists of all who were in their sparkling company on this occasion.
Their carefully-crafted songs were beautifully performed and highlighted their devotion to their craft and to each other. Pharis cracked the best gag all night when Jason praised her for having “a perfect pitch.” She gleefully responded: “Why then am I married to a banjo player?”
This was a bold, double-header gig, a memorable gathering of top-drawer artistes on the same night – a mini Transatlantic Session, if you like. Well done to Celtic Connections for pulling it off.
Presenter, Celtic Music Radio 95FM