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Western Centuries

Call the Captain – 2020 (Free Dirt)

Reviewed by Jim Hynes

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CDs by Western Centuries

Hailing from the Seattle-area is a talented, multi-instrumentalist, harmonizing trio, Western Centuries, a triumvirate in the true sense as they choose not to elect a bandleader. This is the third release for Calahen Morrison (Eli West), Ethan Lawton (Zoe Muth and the High Rollers) and Jim Miller (Donna The Buffalo). Three-part harmonies abound in the spirit of a bluegrass band that's more electric roots and country oriented. They are so democratic that each is evenly sequenced with lead vocals on four of the dozen. Lawton, with his high lonsome vocals, has the most distinctive voice.

There are high profile contributors, such as innovative Grammy-nominated producer Bill Reynolds (he also produced the debut, 2016's "Weight of the World"). He recorded the disc in his studio with co-production from band member Thomas Bryan Eaton, who plays a variety of instruments and pedal steel on all tracks. (Eaton did a great job on Miss Tess's current album and does so again here.) Core member Nokosse Fields adds bass and fiddle. Guest John Palmer plays keys on five tracks with especially terrific honky tonk piano on "Sarah and Charlie." and Jim Lauderdale stops by for vocal support on "Hear Broke Syndrome" and "Space Force." Former Stray Birds co-leader Oliver Bates Craven fiddles on five tracks.

Each cut offers great music, and some deliver interesting messages too. "Long Dreadful Journey" and "Dynamite Kid" criticize dogmatic belief systems and self-righteousness, an unfortunate reality these days. They take this further satirizing Trump's proposed sixth branch of the military in "Space Force" where Lauderdale sings the last verse. Don't fret. They can deliver the requisite country tear-jerker too as they do in the closing "Before That Final Bell," with Morrison at his crooning best.

This is cosmic, genre-melding music melding country, classic R&B, vintage rock n' roll and bluegrass with wonderful sonics and a thoughtful approach.