Seattle is best known for giving the world grunge-rock, but apparently some musicians there are equally influenced by American roots music, country, and rock ‘n’ roll. Take Western Centuries. Comprised of Seattle-based country musician Cahalen Morrison, jam band veteran Jim Miller (co-founder of Donna the Buffalo), R&B and bluegrass-by-way-of-punk rock songwriter Ethan Lawton, pedal steel player Rusty Blake, and bassist Dan Lowinger, Western Centuries combines all its members’ influences and styles into an original take on American roots-rock.
Western Centuries will bring its upbeat, honkytonk dance numbers, its lilting, introspective tunes of heartbreak, and everything in between to Club Helsinki Hudson on Friday, July 21, at 9pm.
Like the group’s model, the Band, Western Centuries boasts three different songwriters and lead vocalists (Morrison, Miller, and Lawton); the result is a sound that deftly defies neat categorization. Yet the group’s sound doesn’t come off as scattered. Instead, it feels like the natural confluence of the band’s wide-ranging influences, laced together by the interconnected histories of the musical styles at its foundation, and by its writers’ commitments to imaginative songwriting. There’s ample pedal steel, backporch fiddling, and plenty of country Telecaster twang, but Western Centuries elevate neo-traditional two-stepping tunes into transcendental, rootsy rock ‘n’ roll pieces.
The title track of the group’s debut album, “Weight of the World“, puts it all together, with bluegrass harmonies, shimmering acoustic and twangy electric guitars, pedal steel, shuffling rhythms, and lyrics that betray a life of learned lessons. “Philosophers and Fools” has a similar vibe atop a dance rhythm.
Philadelphia’s The Key magazine, connected to that city’s famed radio station, WXPN, wrote, “Western Centuries is more than proficient in their country stylings, but where they really shine is bringing to the fore tinges of funk, honky tonk, and rock with a good sense of fun.”