Western Centuries seems intent on appealing to the widest possible audience while still operating under contemporary constraints. "Songs from the Deluge," its official sophomore set, finds the trio - Cahalen Morrison, Ethan Lawton and Jim Miller - pooling their songwriting skills, as well as talents gleaned from work with their earlier ensembles, Zoe Muth and the High Rollers, Donna the Buffalo and Eli West.
Still, Western Centuries isn't exactly what one might consider a supergroup of sorts, if for no other reason than their pointed lack of pretence. Though their sound can be considered country, they imbue other additives into the mix as well - Cajun ("Far from Home"), swing ("Cloud of Woes"), honky tonk ("Wild You Run," Own Private Honky Tonk"), and ballads ("Rocks and Flame," "How Many More Miles to Babylon") - all without sacrificing coherence and consistency. Shimmering steel guitar, occasional fiddle and homespun harmonies contribute to their high lonesome sound, creating an age old authenticity that's strikingly apparent from one song to the next. Although Morrison, Miller and Lawton evenly divide the vocal duties, each is capable of delivering a classic croon that further affirms their vintage values.
That said, Western Centuries don't push the parameters, but then again, there's no real need to. With assurance and authenticity their main strengths, they deliver by degrees, asserting authority with nary a weary respite. The steady wallop of closing track "Warm Guns" testifies to that tenacity.
Ultimately, "Songs from the Deluge" stands as an outstanding example of astute Americana that breaks free of the competition and sets a standard all its own. It's fresh, it's vibrant and it's adroit in its execution, a fine example of all that it means to achieve instant appeal.
Lee Zimmerman is a freelance writer based in Maryville, Tenn. He also expounds on music on his web site, Stories Beyond the Music - Americana Music Reviews, Interviews & Articles.