published Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Folk duo puts timeless twist on modern themes


What: Old-time/folk duo Cahalen Morrison and Eli West.

When: 8 p.m. today.

Where: Barking Legs Theater, 1307 Dodds Ave.

Admission: $10.

Phone: 624-5347.

Venue website:


Q&A with Cahalen Morrison and Eli West


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2009: “Old-Timey and New-Fangled” (Cahalen Morrison)

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Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. Noel and Liam Gallagher. Roger Waters and David Gilmour.

Just because two people have musical compatibility doesn’t necessarily translate into personal friendship.

In the case of folk singer/songwriter Cahalen Morrison and multi-instrumentalist Eli West, however, the connection exists on multiple levels.

Last August, eight months after they met, Morrison relocated from New Mexico to join West in Seattle.

“We’re pretty much full-time buddies,” Morrison said, laughing.

West was quick to point out that friendship was only half the equation.

“Both Cahalen and I have a healthy dose of skepticism about us, but despite that, it was rather instantaneous,” he said. “Cahalen is a good songwriter, and I was really drawn to his writing. That was instant, and we’ve since built the dialogue of the musicality to it.”

Despite their chemistry, West and Morrison come to the music from different backgrounds.

For Morrison, the old-time tradition runs in the family. He was raised backing up his father, an old-time fiddler/guitarist, and studied drums in college before returning to his roots as a full-time folk musician after graduating.

West, however, only recently came to the folk/old-time tradition, having pursued classical and jazz before moving most recently to bluegrass.

Thanks to West’s energetic, occasionally off-kilter, approach to melodies on guitar, bouzouki and any number of other stringed instruments, there’s an energy to the duo’s songs that is lacking in many other old-times groups.

Nevertheless, when Morrison and West take the stage tonight at Barking Legs Theater, they will perform compositions that, by dint of Morrison’s melding of modern themes with pastoral imagery, embody a timeless quality.

“I find that it’s a fun and interesting challenge to implement modern things that are still relevant to people into something that sounds timeless or traditional,” Morrison said. “That’s the trick, taking relevant things and turning them into something that sounds like it’s been around for a long time.”

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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