By Jackie Morris

Caleb_Klauder_Western_CountryIf this tangled, modern world has got you down and you yearn for the simpler, good ole’ days, tune into Caleb Klauder for the most authentic reincarnation of Traditional Country, Honky Tonk and Old Time music you’ve ever heard....and a guaranteed, high-energy pick-me-up.

In the course of the past year, Klauder has given us two new CDs that sound as if they were recorded back in the days when albums were made of vinyl and recording artists didn’t have the luxury of overdubs and digital enhancements. In fact, both his albums - Western Country, released in Fall 2010 with his 6-piece country band, and Sud de la Louisiane, released in 2011 as part of the Foghorn Trio (see the accompanying review) - were recorded live in the studio. Rich with tight harmonies, honky tonk rhythm and twang, the result is visceral: both albums capture the foot-stompin’ excitement, raw vitality and spontaneous joy of a live band.

In short, this is one upbeat ride back in time! Western Country conjures up images of sleazy honky tonks, smoke-filled bars, or driving down a country road in an old pick-up with Hank Williams on the radio. Like his previous solo CD, Dangerous Mes and Poisonous Yous, it brings back the timeless appeal of country swing music from the 1950s, duplicating the sound of early Nashville recordings with uncanny fidelity.

Surprisingly, however, Klauder is not the product of Nashville or Texas or the Blueridge Mountains. He is based in Portland, Oregon, and has been touring for well over 15 years now, initially performing with the popular folk-rock group, Calobo, and then with Pig Iron, The Foghorn Stringband, The Caleb Klauder Band, and with Dirk Powell…playing major stages and festivals all around the U.S. and Europe. He has also been writing songs since the age of 15. But his recent musical journeys have led him to embrace C&W music with a sincerity and passion that belies his Northwest origin.

Klauder’s easy, unaffected voice and vintage stylings on mandolin and guitar seem to pour out of him effortlessly, coming from a place deep inside. And he is backed by the non-stop talents and driving energy of his band, including long-time bandmate from the Foghorn Trio, Stephen “Sammy” Lind on fiddle, guitar and harmony vocals…Ned Folkerth on drums…Sophie Vitells on Fiddle and harmony vocals…Paul Brainard on electric guitar, straight steel and pedal steel guitar, and piano…and Jesse Emerson on upright bass. In addition, Nadine Landry, also from the Foghorn Trio, does a guest appearance on one track, singing harmony. This is one tight, together, terrific band!

The 12 tracks on the album are comprised of half originals and half covers, including classics like Satisfied Mind (immortalized by Johnny Cash) and some lesser-known gems by the Louvin Brothers. But what really has all the critics buzzing about Klauder is the absolute, uncompromised authenticity of his music. If I hadn’t read the track list on the back of the album, I would never, ever, have been able to tell Klauder’s original songs from the cover songs! They’re just that good! In fact, when I heard Klauder’s high-octane openers, Worn Out Shoes and My Time is Gonna Come, followed by a beautiful, harmony-driven version of Satisfied Mind, I thought they stood shoulder to shoulder in terms of great old play-it-again-on-the-jukebox country songs. Klauder has truly captured the heartbreak themes, the everyday phrasing, the melodic appeal, and the get-up-and-dance rhythms, that have made this genre so timelessly relatable.

A New York transplant to the tiny town of Carpinteria, CA, Jackie is a freelance writer by profession and a singer-songwriter by passion. Her newly-released third album of original Folk/Americana songs was among Top Albums on the Folk Music Radio Airplay Charts for July and August, 2011. Jackie is also an active member in such acoustic music communities as SummerSongs, SongMakers, and FARWest Folk Alliance.