The title of Cahalen Morrison’s latest solo effort — The Flower of Muscle Shoals — implies a nostalgic tie to roots music history. Through his duo work with Eli West, Morrison has already demonstrated a reverence (and considerable talent) for acoustic Americana. The Flower of Muscle Shoals turns up the volume, augmenting Morrison’s gentle vocal twang with a rock-solid backing band easily at home in the diviest of honky-tonks.
That’s not to say The Flower is a raucous collection of tunes; Morrison errs toward the tear in your beer, as opposed to the fighting side of classic country. Fans of Morrison/West will find much to appreciate in the pace and acoustic ambience of this album, from the easy two-step of “Cascabel Valley” to the western swing of “Our Love is Like a Hurricane.” The fingerpicked acoustic guitar, walking bass, and reverb-laden Telecaster of “The Delta Divine” is particularly satisfying, marrying toe-tapping country blues rhythm with concise and skillfully crafted lyrics. Morrison started in ranchero, and as a fellow New Mexican I couldn’t help but smile at the accordion and fiddle-fueled romp of “Hobbled and Grazing.”
The Flower of Muscle Shoals is a deeply satisfying album, amply demonstrating this artist’s versatility and potential across a range of roots idioms. It’s also proof that great country & western music is still readily accessible — you just have to switch off the radio and tune in to the sounds of a true craftsman like Cahalen Morrison.