If there’s one thing that the city of Portland, Oregon has taught the rest of the world, it’s the value of making your own path. That’s a lesson at the heart of Portland country singers Caleb Klauder & Reeb Willms’ music. On their new album, Innocent Road, they navigate fourteen original and rare country songs with the kind of easy authenticity that comes from deep immersion in the tradition. And even though they tour the world with their country band, the Pacific Northwest always draws them home. For years, CalebKlauder has been at the heart of Portland’s music scene. In the early 2000s, his group Foghorn Stringband led the burgeoning square dance and Appalachian stringband revival. In the past twelve years, he’s been leading Portland’s underground country scene with his rough-hewn vocals and incredibly catchy songwriting. He’s the kind of artist that sparks the trends, never chases them, and bands directly inspired by his music stretch across the United States. That’s because there’s a simple honesty to his music, a kind of unassuming greatness that draws other artists in.
This was certainly the case for his musical partner Reeb Willms, who met him in 2009 at the National Old-Time Fiddle Contest in Weiser, ID. Reeb hails from the rural hinterlands of Eastern Washington, where she grew up on a wheat farm with a family band that sang old county songs for the surrounding community. She formed a roving honky-tonk band and a string band of her own when she lived in Bellingham, Washington, and she retains that kind of easy confidence that you find in natural bandleaders. Together, Caleb Klauder & Reeb Willms are the new power couple in roots country music, following in a long tradition of country duos.
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