Touring never gets easier. Packing your life into a suitcase, trucking all that gear halfway across the country and back again, eating in strange cities and sleeping strange beds — it can all add up to a lot of hard work. It’s the kind of life you’d want to live for a week, not three months at a time.
But making music isn’t the same as playing it, and for Cahalen Morrison and Eli West the act of making music together has gotten decidedly easier as the years have gone on.
“Creatively, we’ve built a lot of intuition together,” West said. “It’s like picking up a conversation where you left off. There’s a lot built in and it’s just really comfortable. The project itself allowed us to reinvent ourselves and keep things fresh.”
That project is Morrison and West’s triumphant “I’ll Swing My Hammer With Both Hands,” which they released at a raucous show at the Tractor Tavern in February. It was evident on that chilly night that the conversation between the two in-demand musicians is as intense as ever.
However, the duo’s usual stomping ground is the Triple Door, and they’ll return there Thursday night with John Reischman and Greg Spatz, also members of a large circle of roots players that often find themselves collaborating with each other.
But as much as West and Morrison play with others, they’ve come back three times to record studio albums together. There’s a draw there that West found hard to put into words at first.
“We cover different quarters,” West said. “His songwriting is obviously strong and wonderful. He sort of is a good framework to work with. Tim O’Brien described Cahalen as a superstructure I can kind of lean out from or explore from, which I guess is a pretty good analogy.”
Part of what makes Morrison and West such a good team is the incredible balance they strike. Never overwhelmingly busy or too sparse, it’s a dynamic the pair makes look effortless and drives their propulsive music forward.
“I think we let vocals steer the way,” West said. “We both love to sing, maybe even more than play our instruments. The vocals of a song will determine how much room is left for instruments. It’s cool because there’s three things going on. We’re using negative space to shape the music. And then Cahalen has an approach to filling sound and I have an approach to filling sound, so we’re using three different tools.”
All Morrison and West’s tools will be on display Thursday in a room that has always been kind to them, and then they’ll dot their way across the country before leaving on a U.K. tour on April 30 before heading back to Seattle for Folklife on May 24.
Cahalen Morrison and Eli West with John Reischman and Greg Spatz
7:30 p.m. at the Triple Door, 216 Union St., Seattle; $13 (206-838-4333 or thetripledoor.net)
-Owen R. Smith, on Twitter @inanedetails