Live Review: Whiskey Wednesday with Western Centuries at Landmark Saloon

The Big Three: Western Centruies featuring (l to r) Jim Miller, Cahalen Morrison and Ethan Lawton on the tiny stage at Landmark Saloon in Portland.

Western Centuries
Live at Landmark Saloon
Portland, OR, USA
1-10-17

By Phil Favorite

When it comes to West Coast country bands, it doesn’t get much better than Western Centuries — the five-piece, Seattle-based unit featuring three distinct singer-songwriters and a harmony sound all their own.

So when Western Centuries loaded into the tiny Landmark Saloon for a couple of intimate sets of high quality Honky Tonk, the Whiskey Wednesday regulars knew they were in for a treat. The place packed quickly but there was just enough room for the dancing crowd to shake and spin, just a step or two from the band and arm’s length from the tip jar.

With singers Jim Miller, Cahalen Morrison and Ethan Lawton sharing the spotlight, the band famously rotated instruments and kept it loose. Lawton and Morrison switched back and forth from fronting the band to playing drums, and Morrison and Miller swapped duties on lead guitar, with one plucking a clean telecaster while the other strummed a rich acoustic.

Describing Western Centuries sound as straight Honky Tonk would be misleading. It’s easy to identify influences from across the Americana spectrum — R&B, country, soul, folk and cajun music all color the sound.

The band played favorites from their excellent 2016 record “Weight of the World,” but much of the first set drew from their upcoming album, “Songs From The Deluge,” due out April 6 on Free Dirt Records. The sweat and smiles pouring from the dance floor all night told the rest of the story.

Late last year,Western Centuries premiered four of the songs from the new album n KEXP’s Swinging Doors program, hosted by DJ Don Slack. For a taste of what this band is all about, check out live versions of “Wild Birds,” “Wild You Run,” “How Many More Miles To Babylon” and “Three Swallows” in the video below.

Learn more about Western Centuries and their upcoming album release at Free Dirt’s Western Centuries page.

 

December Podcast Picks

1

Nikki Lane’s new full-length LP “Highway Queen” will be hitting the streets in February 2017.

Stream or download our December Podcast Picks:  December Podcast Picks

She’s logged a lot of road miles since the release of her breakthrough 2014 breakthrough album “All Or Nothin” and now Nikki Lane is ready to take the world by storm with “Highway Queen,” the much anticipated follow up due early next year.

We kick off our December Podcast picks with the title track from the record, which Rolling Stone.com describes as “an amalgam of gritty twang, dirty blues and a whip-smart taste for dangerously delightful melody” — in other words, more of what we’ve come to love from the sassy, stylish outlaw country chanteuse. After “Highway Queen” hits the streets, Ms. Lane and her band will hit the road for an extensive tour that includes a stop at California’s Stagecoach Festival in April.

Nikki is just one of several of our favorite female singers featured among this month’s podcast picks. Amanda Shires’ new record, “My Piece of Land,” is receiving across-the-board praise while Lydia Loveless continues to tour behind her genre-busting Bloodshot Records LP “Real,” released in August. We also have an official outtake celebrating the 20th anniversary of Gillian Welch’s debut album “Revival,” and a song from Courtney Marie Andrews’ much (rightly so) praised “Honest Life” record, released this past summer by Portland-based Mama Bird Recording Co.

We also added a little modern rock muscle to the mix with cuts from Two Cow Garage, Drunken Prayer and Blackberry Smoke, but still managed to keep it country with songs old and new by the likes Billy Don Burns, Western Centuries, Chris Stalcup and Brent Cobb. And we always seem to find a way to salute the forefathers, with a careful nod to a legend lost, the great Leonard Cohen.

So dial it up. These should help hold you through the holidays. Here’s the playlist for our December Podcast Picks:

Highway Queen, Nikki Lane
Continental Distance, Two Cow Garage
Keith Whitley Blue, Billy Don Burns
Gold, The Handsome Family
The Old You, Western Centuries
You Are My Home, Amanda Shires
Fell Into The Sun, Drunken Prayer
Chickenhawks and Jesus Freaks, Tom Heyman
Me and the Whiskey, Whitey Morgan and the 78’s
Midwestern Guys, Lydia Loveless
Burnin’ Up These Highways, Chris Stalcup
Drinking, Cheating, Loving and Leaving, Adam Lee and the Dead Horse Sound Company
Show Me, Neil Young
Merry Christmas From The Family, Robert Earl Keen
Go On Downtown (Revival Outtake), Gillian Welch
Diggin’ Holes, Brent Cobb
Sunrise In Texas, Blackberry Smoke
15 Highway Lines, Courtney Marie Andrews
Chelsea Hotel #2, Leonard Cohen

August Podcast Picks

a28662dae6bd5194755e3b9f10a3cb59_original

Don’t mess with Mamma Coal. The show is Thursday, August 18 at Mission Theater in Portland. Photo by Chad Lanning Photography

Steam or download our August Podcast Picks: August ’16 podcast picks

“You can’t hang a woman for killing a stranger who’s threatened the life of her babe.” So goes the narrative in Mamma Coal’s ambitious new album “Raven Haired Vixen,” ready for release this month and featured here at the top of our podcast picks for August.

We were lucky enough to have Portland’s Carra Barrett Stasney, aka Mamma Coal, as a guest on That Much Further West Podcast for Episode #63 back in January. She had just Kickstarted her recording project, a story in songs inspired by Willie Nelson’s timeless album “Red Headed Stranger.”

Now the raven-haired Mamma is ready to celebrate with an album release show on Thursday, Aug. 18, at the Mission Theater in Portland. We offer a sneak preview of the record with “Ride Through The Night” topping this month’s podcast picks.

Also featured is new music by several podcast favorites who have new records out, including the inimitable Lydia Loveless, American Aquarium frontman B.J. Barham,  former podcast guests Evening Bell, the mighty Sadler Vaden (best known as lead guitar for Jason Isbell’s band, The 400 Unit) and the fabulous outlaw country practitioner Cody Jinks.

We also have summertime hits from Portland’s Wilkinson Blades, whose excellent album “Home” came out earlier this year, and Western Centuries, who lit up Pickathon earlier this month with a couple of stunning performances.

13902759_10202120962063468_5171183165614498264_n

Willy Tea Taylor, left, with Chuck Noland in The Barn in Portland.

Finally, we share a collection of songs in salute of a fallen hero. Last week the podcast team lost a dear friend, patriarch and constant source of inspiration — Chuck Noland. He was strong as an ox, tough as nails but tender to the core and taught us that real men can be emotional, thoughtful and kind-hearted without losing a shred of masculinity. Chuck was a man’s man, which is why all who knew him loved him so.

Chuck created a family of friends around his love of music and dancing and enriched our lives more than words can say. And for that we will forever be grateful. R.I.P. buddy, we’ll see you on heaven’s honky tonk hardwood floor.

Here’s the podcast picks for August:

Ride Through The Night, Mamma Coal
Same To You, Lydia Loveless
American Tobacco Company, B.J. Barham
Tail Light, Evening Bell
Watch The World Go By, Wilkinson Blades
You Can’t Have It All, Sadler Vaden
Knockin’ ’em Down, Western Centuries
I’m Not The Devil, Cody Jinks
Rose Marie, Slim Whitman
Burning .44, Chuckanut Drive
Sao Paulo, Deadstring Brothers
The Travelin’ Kind, Tom VandenAvond
Life Is Beautiful, Willy Tea Taylor
Grandpa, Truckstop Darlin’

June Podcast Picks

Band+4

The men of Western Centuries (l to r): Rusty Blake, Ethan Lawton, Cahalen Morrison, Jim Miller and Dan Lowinger

Stream or download June Podcast Picks:  June Podcast Picks

A new name and a new album — it seems like a risky proposition for a band that not only had the name cache of one of the truest young voices in country and folk music but also a super cool band name to begin with. But for the collaborative Pacific Northwest trad country band Western Centuries (formerly known as Cahalen Morrison & Country Hammer), it actually makes sense. One listen to Side A of “Weight Of The World,” the new album by Western Centuries, and you’ll realize right away that this is a band with a lot more than just the talented Mr. Morrison going for it.

Blessed with three great songwriters in Morrison, Ethan Lawton and Jim Miller (founding member of Donna The Buffalo), the band is rounded out by a pair of Portland-based aces: Rusty Blake on steel guitar and Dan Lowinger on bass. But it’s Morrison’s honey-baked voice at the center of the proceedings, which is why we selected the title cut for the top of this month’s Podcast Picks. You can stream the record in its entirely here. Highly recommended.

Speaking of new records, we picked cuts from wonderful new releases by North Carolina’s The Honeycutters, The Jayhawks, Austin Lucas, Anna Tivel (out now on Fluff & Gravy Records) and rockers Arliss Nancy. Also, a classic Richard Thompson cover from a dear friend, Florida-based Reina Collins, who will be in Portland this week for a happy hour show at Mississippi Pizza on Friday, June 10.

We recently discovered Texas-bred troubadour Brian Wright while he was playing lead guitar as part of Aaron Lee Tasjan’s touring band — turns out he has an amazing output of records himself. “Haunted” is from his 2013 release “Rattle Their Chains,” a world-class collection of Americana songwriting and performance. We also picked a song by The Tragically Hip, a nod to the bummer news that singer Gord Downey is suffering from terminal brain cancer; and also a classic from one of the giants of American music, the recently deceased Guy Clark.

Many, many great voices and songs to soothe you here, so have it! Download or stream our June Podcast Picks above.

Here’s the playlist:

Weight Of The World, Western Centuries
On The Ropes, The Honeycutters
Haunted, Brian Wright
Lost In The Summer, The Jayhawks
Too Much Too Soon, Bonnie Whitmore
Henhouse, Ray Wylie Hubbard
Boots Or Hearts, The Tragically Hip
Sometimes, Luke Bell
’52 Vincent Black Lightning, Reina Collins
Montana Love Song, Younder Blue
Midnight (featuring Kelly Smith), Austin Lucas
L.A. Freeway, Guy Clark
Shadow Of A Son, Anna Tivel
Bar Of The Century, Arliss Nancy
I Need Never Get Old, Nathaniel Rateliff
Leaving Louisiana, Shovels & Rope
End Of The Line, Hurray For The Riff Raff