Cahalen Morrison and Country Hammer – The Flower of Muscle Shoals – Fresh traditional country music

Cahalen Morrison has made an appearance on our site in the past, so it was nice to hear he’s still at it. This isn’t the kind of country music you’ll hear on big radio stations, unfortunately, but it is the kind you’re likely to hear in honky tonks. It’s traditional, powerful, and soul moving just like country ought to be. The title of the album gives credence to the Muscle Shoals region of Alabama, one of American music’s richest areas. They do not disappoint.

The opener highlights Morrison’s lead vocals and a fantastic steel guitar. It feels just the right amount of twangy and the great lyric, “the bright lights burned the rodeo down.” Yep, it’s the kind of country and it’s exactly what we needed.

The title track “The Flower of Muscle Shoals” is about a woman waiting for her man to return. The toe-tapping two-step is a perfect dancing tune. “By the banks of the Tennessee River…” is about the greatest little ditty we could hope to hear. The fiddle really sounds great on this one, too. Altogether it invokes romance, river life, and a lot of good feelings.

“Sorrow Lines the Highway of Regret” puts listeners in mind of The Mavericks. It’s got a great beat, heavy on the steel guitar again, and some nice solid harmonies. Morrison and Country Hammer are the kind of country band that sound like they could be playing in the 50s or 60s but still manage to sound fresh and real. “Your memory is fading fast just like I hoped it would.” It’s a heartache song delivered with the kind of hopeful country drinkin’ optimism that brings us to the genre of music to begin with. It’s great.

“Delta Divine” is a mysterious and tip-toeing song that feels serious and intricate. Conjuring images of spiritualism and otherworldly powers, it’s ultimately about romance. It’s about being enraptured by someone and crying out to have that love fulfilled. The construct of the song is a little delta blues, heavy on electric guitar, and comes together for a more alt country sound than the rest of the album, but it works nicely because of Morrison’s clever lyrical delivery. Well played.

The slow, nearly temperate “I’ve Won Every Battle But Lost Every War” is the ultimate country song. Seriously it uses fantastical imagery delivered with a sincere heartache ethos. It’s about a relationship that didn’t work and he’s just… well, lamenting it. Using natural, supernatural, and traditional images, it’s a really timeless song. If someone told me this was a Hank Sr. song, I’d believe them. It’s that kind of good old country. (By the way, it has hands down the best three-part harmonies on the album.)

“Our Love is Like a Hurricane” is a fun track reminding me of Boxcar Willie (how’s that for a dated reference!). It’s got that whimsical, joyful spirit about it. Instead of sadness over a bygone relationship, it’s the celebration of a delightful one. The fiddle is great, the steel guitar sings, and the vocals are on point. It’s just a good, solid country tune. Along with “Hobbled and Grazing” it even has a little bit of a bayou flavor (or maybe I just have the wrong kind of “Hurricane” in mind…)

“Through Your Window” is another sad, sober country tune. “Through my teardrops we both look the same… just a little more broken, both shattered in pain.” It’s tragic, really. It’s one of those slowed down waltzes that most people think IS country music. I wouldn’t mind this tune being someone’s introduction to the genre. It’s real and raw in all the right ways.

The final “A Daisy in Tennessee” is a rambler’s jam. It’s one of those “call you out” tracks where the protagonist is commenting on a girl named Daisy. “I think of you every night and day… in each and every kind of way.” It’s a nice end to an admirable album.

All told, Morrison and company present a nice collection of real country music. More so “traditional” than roots, this is the kind of album that will keep fans of the Mavericks or Dwight Yoakam quite happy. From toe tappers to drinker’s laments, it’s the right mix of music. Every little thing is done well from songwriting to harmonies and the steel guitar throughout might be my favorite part. It’s a must listen album for fans of real country music and is sure to garner a following for the band. Enjoy.

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