Cahalen Morrison & Eli West Make Hard Work Sound Effortless on Their Latest Full-Length

Cahalen Morrison & Eli West, I’ll Swing My Hammer With Both Hands (out now, self released, cahalenandeli.com)

From its rustic woodcut cover art—a pair of work-hardened hands revealing a wild landscape—to its title, this is a working person’s record. For their third release, this songwriting pair didn’t shy away from hard work (Morrison plays banjo, mandolin, bouzouki, and dobro; West takes up guitar and bouzouki; and both sing, of course), bringing 14 full songs—mostly originals save for a few covers (Alice Gerrard’s “Voices of Evening” and the Louvin Brothers’ “Lorene”). What’s more, the duo anchors that hardworking line to the Pacific Northwest. Like its namesake green perennial, opening track “Fiddlehead Fern” sets a course firmly rooted here, with close, gentle harmonies that sing of nature’s ever-steady rhythms: “Pipers run the ever lapping salt sea/The path is wrote, only to be washed clean.” Subsequent tracks unfurl at their own pace—a variety of waltzes, reels, and sea chanteys like the well-spun, roving “Off the Chama” and the wonderfully tender “Down in the Lonesome Draw,” reminiscent of a Gillian Welch/David Rawling collaboration in its deep and twangy string interplay. What makes this Morrison and West’s finest recording yet is the pair’s effortless, lived-in style; both musicians bring very different strengths here, but there’s no struggle for dominance, and track after track settles into a easy resonance. Any hard worker knows finishing a job is no race, and it’s that unrushed, unhurried approach that makes Hammer such a well-executed effort.

 
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