This is the second of what I hope will be a regular(ish) series of reviews in illustrated form. This is an old fashioned image map so you can click on various parts of the graphic to link to songs and info about the artist (and other things).
I saw Chatham County line at the Jazz Cafe in Camden three years ago, not long after the release of their fifth album Wildwood. It was an effervescent, slick, high energy gig and the band seemed to be high on the acclaim and the feeling that they were on their way. The intervening few years have seen bluegrass, old time and banjo sounds become more mainstream in this country – but at the lovely and intimate little Bush Hall in Shepherds Bush, Chatham County line seemed more rough-edged, low key and sardonic than I remember them. I’d always felt that there was something more clean cut and churchy about CCL, compared to, says, bluegrass bands like Old Crow Medicine Show or Trampled by Turtles. But here – although still in their trademark junior bank clerk rumpled suits – their sense of longing was more palpable, the strain of melancholy more noticeable. Sometimes the richly honeyed harmonies can disguise the sadness of many of Dave Wilson’s songs, but there was a harder edge to them tonight – manifested in the change in appearance of fiddle/mando player John Teer who has gone from foppish music artiste to knackered lumber jack with tape worm in the space of three years. That’s a good thing, by the way.
Support act Mandolin Orange were exceedingly ace, lots of finely judged old time harmonies and a touch of Whiskeytown in some of the vocal lines – I bought a vinyl copy of their LP for my kids. It’s this week’s breakfast listening.
Chatham County Line’s new LP is Tightrope (Yep Roc)
Chatham County Line official site
‘The Crop Comes In’ (YouTube)
The Bluegrass Situation – Interview with Dave Wilson
‘Chip of a Star’ (YouTube)
Notting Hill Amber Beer
North Carolina (Wikipedia)
Cheering audience, Bush Hall gig
Old Weird America
‘The Carolinian’ (YouTube)
Crowd member sings along to ‘The Carolinian’ at Bush Hall