Western Centuries Share Inspiration Behind “Before That Final Bell”

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Some bands choose to embrace the qualities and quirks of where they live, and incorporate them into the very fabric of their artistry. Seattle, WA’s Western Centuries, a cooperative group mutually built by Cahalen Morrison, Ethan Lawton, and Jim Miller, doesn’t follow suit. While Seattle is constantly promoted as a technological nexus that moves at lightning speed, the gentlemen of Western Centuries seem more than content with making music that unfolds at its own pace and in its own ways, regardless of stylistic stereotypes.

Premiering today on American Songwriter, “Before That Final Bell” displays Western Centuries’ strong musicianship. The band muses on the emotive potential of unassuming scenery and the impact of the modern day rush.

Through the steel of the skylight

iron shadows cast

I try to navigate the countryside

But it moves to G-ddamn fast

“In today’s world, we’re met with so many dichotomies and conflicts. Along with science and education becoming so much more prevalent and advanced, poverty, inequality and ignorance are right in tow, if not ahead of them,” says songwriter, Cahalen Morrison.

While Morrison’s initial consideration sounds like a concept too big to tackle in one song, just like the tune itself, his opening thought leads to the flexible but digestible idea behind “Before That Final Bell’s” narrative.

“During the session, we stripped the song way down to try give it a similar feeling of the beauty and despair that exist on the highway between Broadus and Garryowen, Montana – the two towns mentioned in the chorus. I’ve driven this stretch a few times and been moved differently each time. Equally by despair and resilience.”

Nobody goes from Broadus to Garryowen,

without about a thousand tales to tell

And what if it don’t dry up and blow away

sometime before that final bell.

Though the imagery of a winding road and a long solitary drive presents a feeling of overwhelming vastness, the scene’s coexistent simplicity aligns well with the song’s many layers of melodic warmth: laid-back snare beat, along with the unhurried note-bending of pedal steel and guitars both acoustic and electric. The music exudes a balance of folky friendliness and plainspoken frankness similar to James Taylor or Neil Young, delivered through smoothly executed three-part harmony – a signature of the band’s collaborative ethos. One could say it would be easier to list all the ways Western Centuries doesn’t follow convention, rather than what it has in common with the expectations of country, folk, bluegrass, and rock and roll. But as far as “Before That Final Bell” is concerned, as an introduction to forthcoming album Call the Captain – an LP built on Western Centuries’ philosophy of united teamwork – it’s a perfect musical sample for the wider collection of narratives that, like this song, set out to challenge the complacency within present day American living.

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