Album Review – Western Centuries’ ‘Weight of the World’

Western Centuries Weight of the World

I want to say something right up front with this review and that’s I wish I had reviewed this sooner. Western Centuries is an up and coming roots rock country group that a lot more people need to be familiar with. The group is composed of Cahalen Morrison, Jim Miller, Ethan Lawton, Rusty Blake and Dan Lowinger. Each of them come from uniquely different backgrounds and they mix them together to create quite the compelling sound. The three lead vocalists of the group in particular really bring something different to the table, as Miller was the co-founder of Donna the Buffalo, Morrison has a country background and Lawton is a punk rock songwriter. On paper this doesn’t sound like it’s that harmonious, but trusts me once you hear this group on their new album Weight of the World, it sounds absolutely brilliant.

The album’s title track welcomes us in with a heavy dose of pedal steel guitar. It’s a great precursor to the stellar instrumentation that is featured throughout this album. The naturally upbeat “Double or Nothing” is easy to find yourself tapping your feet along with as you listen. The song is about two former lovers calling each other up to get back together, only for them to spend the night together. One of them leaves the next morning and they’re right back to being lonely again. While Western Centuries say they’re a mixture of roots rock and country, there’s a lot of moments just stone cold country like on “Knocking ‘em Down.” It’s just an all-around solid tune that wouldn’t sound out of place in the heydays of country music. “What Will They Say About Us Now?” tackles relationships and having to deal with everyone around you. A couple “paints the town” and live their relationship while they know their friends and family around them whisper about them. They both wonder what everyone will say about them after what they’ve done now. It’s a great take on dealing with nosey people and dealing with outside voices.

One of my favorites on Weight of the World is “Philosophers and Fools.” It’s a classic heartbreak song that brilliantly describes the fall and aftermath of a failed relationship. As the group points out in the song, “a seamless love is the construct of philosophers and fools.” It’s one of the most refreshing and honest takes I’ve heard on love in a song in quite some time. The quieter and downtrodden “Sadder Day” follows. This song focuses on the word play between the phrase “sadder day” and Saturday. The song is about how every Saturday is another sad day for a man who’s down and blue and drinks his sorrow away. He tries the best he can to get over his broken heart, but he just can’t. From the lyrics to the instrumentation, this song has everything that you want in a drinking song.

One of the things Western Centuries captures so well on this album is that warm, classic feel of country songs of yesteryear and is perhaps showcased at it’s best on “In My Cups.” This is a more upbeat drinking song and upon the first listen the song feels like a long-lost friend you’ve just rediscovered. These are the best type of songs because you can instantly connect before you even get through the first listen of it. “Hallucinations” sees a relationship seesawing between over with and back on again. Every time this man thinks his woman has left him she’s back in his sight again, making him question if he’s hallucinating. He could be, but it’s up to you the listener to decide. Either way a hallucination is a perfect way to describe someone trying to get over heartbreak.

Western Centuries makes an ode to loving drinking with “Off the Shelf.” Don’t hear too many songs about being in love with drinking, do you? That’s what makes the opening to this song intriguing because you think it’s about a woman until it’s revealed to be the bottle. It’s pretty clever songwriting by the group and features some fantastic instrumentation to boot. The instrumentation continues to shine on “The Long Game.” If there’s one thing you won’t hear me complain about on this album it’s the instrumentation, as I find it be damn near perfect on each song. Western Centuries addresses urbanization and the love of rural life on “The Old You.” It’s about a man driving out to the countryside to see what’s left of it and bask in its greatness. It reminded him of whom he used to be, thanks to his rediscovery of the little bit of countryside still left. It’s a song that makes you ponder about your own little community you may have grown up in or still live in today. The romantic approach to the rural lifestyle in this song is something I know I can appreciate. Weight of the World ends with the rocking “Rock Salt.” Featuring plenty of fiddle throughout, it’s yet another foot stomper on an album full of them. The harmonies really shine on this song and it really puts a nice stamp on a fun album.

From the album cover to each and every song throughout, Weight of the World is a true throwback album. It’s an album that harkens you back to the golden days of country and roots music from decades before. The rich vocals and instrumentation blend together seamlessly. This album hooked me in from the first listen and made me wish I had reviewed it sooner. It’s something that I think any fan of country and roots music can come to appreciate. Western Centuries is one of the most talented groups I’ve come across in country music this year and if you don’t know them yet, you need to change that by listening to Weight of the World.

Grade: 8/10

Album Review – Dori Freeman Proves To Be Special Talent With Her Debut Album

Final Album Cover

When I listen to a new artist, I can usually tell upon first listen if they’re talented. Very rarely do I pick up a debut album, listen to it and realize I’m listening to something special. Upon the very first listen of the debut album of Dori Freeman, I knew I was listening to a special artist. But before I praise this album, you need to know who exactly is Dori Freeman. She’s a 24-year-old singer-songwriter from Galax, Virginia who comes from a family where both her grandfather and father have lived lives with music. Her grandfather is an artist and guitarist, while her father is a music instructor and multi-instrumentalist. Freeman doesn’t consider herself to be under one genre of music, but takes influences from bluegrass, rhythm and blues, and old country. At the heart of it is her Appalachian upbringing, something that country music has decidedly lacked recently. The Appalachian sound is sort of a lost art. But Dori Freeman reminds us all of just how fantastic is can be with her self-titled debut album.

The album begins with Dori Freeman singing the blues for man who was once in her life in “You Say.” Right away Freeman’s voice will absolutely melt your heart and hook you in, leaving you wanting more. It’s vocals like this that will leave you breathless after each time you hear her sing. The beautifully dark “Where I Stood” reflects back on a relationship that has gone down hill. Both know neither of them are the same people who fell in love with each other years ago and that they’re wasting each other’s time. It’s the classic tragedy of love lost and lusting for what once was in your life. Dori Freeman straight up reminds me of Patsy Cline on “Go On Lovin’.” I know this is a huge compliment and I’m comparing a new artist to a country icon. But I immediately felt chills when I heard this song because she sounds like Patsy so much. This heartbreak song couldn’t be more traditional country, from the lingering steel guitar to the carefully placed fiddle play. It reminds you of the golden days of country music when the Appalachian influence was palpable.

One of the more pop-influenced songs on this album is “Tell Me.” It’s really different from everything else you hear on this album and yet arguably could be the best. This song is definitely in the vein of the Nashville sound and at first you might not know how to size it up. But you’ll keep listening to it and find yourself wanting to come back to it again and again. “Fine Fine Fine” has Freeman telling off her no-good cheating man for doing her wrong. Everyone sees him out and about with another woman and this all gets back to her. The cheating man insists they’re just friends. Or as Freeman sings in the best line of this entire album, “You swear it was platonic, do you think I’m that moronic?” The songwriting on this song is superb. The mellow and easy-going “Any Wonder” follows. It’s about a man and woman slowly falling in love with each other. This is another song where you just sit back and marvel at Freeman’s brilliant voice tell a poignant story.

Just when you think you’ve heard everything on this album, “Ain’t Nobody” comes along and knocks you flat on your ass. All this song has is Freeman’s voice and the snapping of fingers. No instruments or production, just Freeman’s voice. I’m not even going to attempt to do it justice, so just take my advice and listen to this song. I think I could listen to an entire album of Freeman’s voice and no instrumentation. Another song where I hear a lot of Patsy Cline in Freeman’s voice is “Lullaby.” Perhaps the sultry-like tone created from the lingering piano in this song reminds me of “Walkin’ After Midnight.” The song itself is about a woman who is up late at night thinking about the man she loves. But she cries tears for him, as she knows he’s with another woman. It’s a love she can never have, a hauntingly beautiful story of a love that can never be shared.

“Song For Paul” is another heartbreak song where Freeman’s voice does such a great job of getting across the pain and suffering of a heartbroken soul. It has a gospel-like tone about it with the harmonized chorus, which brings even more emotion to the song. This beautiful album comes to a close with “Still A Child.” The man Freeman was with may look like a man and do everything he can to convince her that he is one, but in Freeman’s eyes he’s still a child. Freeman feels this way because at the end of the day his actions are still like a child with no clue of what they want in their life. In other words, he can’t commit to one woman. It’s a gripping and cutting song that ends the album with such an appropriately sharp manner.

I’ll be surprised if there’s another debuting country or Americana artist in 2016 that shows more promise than Dori Freeman. This debut album from Freeman blew me away upon the very first listen. In fact I had to play it several times over because only hearing it once wasn’t enough. Freeman’s vocals are crisp, pure and undeniably Appalachian. She was born to sing and very few possess her talent. The songwriting is top-notch and I couldn’t pick out a flaw in the instrumentation and production choices. This album excels and thrives in every area. You can pretty much call it flawless. It’s an album that every true country and Americana fan needs to hear. Dori Freeman is a name you need to know. This is one of the best albums I’ve had the privilege to write about on Country Perspective.

Grade: 10/10

Get a free download of “You Say” on Dori’s website here.