Portland musician Caleb Klauder has always been a bit of a traditionalist. From his early 1990s band Calobo to the active Foghorn String Band, his projects often whisper—and sometimes shout—suggestions of venerable musical traditions.
The same holds true for the newly released Western Country. The album shows signs beyond the obvious CD or MP3 format of being recorded in the past century. Expect, for instance, some electric instrumentation and rock rhythms. Otherwise, that strong traditionalist backbone still supports the album's meaty vitals.
Western Country mixes Klauder's own material with covers of signature songs from classic artists like Ray Price and the Carter Family. Far from fashioning an inconsistent album, Klauder pays respect to his musical heroes while proving he can carry their legacy with capable hands.
The album's lyrical content moves smoothly from emotional highs to dreary lows. Biblical allusions and everyday woes are enunciated through the artistry of Klauder's honky-tonk retinue. Despite the band's proficiency, however, Klauder's vulnerable singing emerges as a singular presence. It manifests as a world-weary curmudgeon, subsisting on a lonely Saturday night routine of cigarettes and barroom booze before rising early for church on Sunday.
Caleb Klauder plays the Top Hat Tuesday, August 31, at 9 PM, with Broken Valley Roadshow opening. $8.