Artist: Chatham County Line
Label: Yep Roc Records
Release Date: 09/02/2016
Raleigh, North Carolina’s Chatham County Line stands at a dusty crossroads where bluegrass and urbane folk music collide in magnificent bursts of song. And stand they do. Singer/songwriter, guitarist, and harmonica player Dave Wilson; Chandler Holt on banjo and harmonies; and multi-instrumentalists and harmony singers John Teer and Greg Reading all hover around a single microphone when they perform, and do so in suits, like in the olden days. Their sound and character are obliquely traditional and incredibly rich. First captured on a self-titled debut in 2003, Chatham County Line’s ways are matchless in the huge realm of modern, roots-inspired bluegrass.
Autumn, their eighth album, finds them in perfect atmosphere; a quartet of brilliant acoustic players making the most of their talents and chemistry. To be sure, the spotlight’s on Wilson, who writes and lead-sings the lion’s share of the songs. His dad, a revered poet, obviously instilled the world in him, for he’s developed into quite a hypnotizing songwriter. “You are My Light” lights things up with Wilson’s hard-strummed guitar and quivering tenor suffused in the warm glow of his mates, and the adoration he expresses. “Bon Ton Roulet” then puts a hazy spin on recollections of a night of debauchery, the New Orleans sentiment laid out in a lazy rhythm and picked by wonderful notes from guitar, mandolin and banjo. “Siren Song” brightens the room again, sawing fiddle personifying the draw. But “Rock in the River” may be the most charming song of all here, Reading’s beautifully muted piano especially striking inside the otherwise thoroughly engrossing melody. Towards the center, Holt’s “Bull City Strut” offers a neat diversion, a heart-racing breakdown of hot as hell picking.
Entertainment of this caliber can only be expressed by a band by far not near the autumn of its years.
– Tom Clarke