When: Wed., Dec. 13, 8 p.m. 2017
"I found this bluegrass thing through a wormhole," says Chatham County Line singer and guitarist Dave Wilson, offering an explanation for his unlikely transition to Americana music nearly twenty years ago, after being enthralled by a Del McCoury Band performance. "While that's been really good to us as a band and to me as a writer, I also love plugging in a guitar because that's what I did way back in seventh grade, rocking out to 'I Melt With You' in my buddy's garage."
For fifteen years now, local Americana institution Chatham County Line has made an annual holiday tradition out of fondly revisiting those formative years with their first electric guitars. After a conventional acoustic set, bassist Jay Brown, guitarist Johnny Irion, and drummer Zeke Hutchins join in on electric versions of Chatham County Line tunes along with a smattering of covers—don't be surprised this year to hear tributes to Tom Petty and Fats Domino—and songs from Stillhouse, Wilson's pre-CCL roots rock crew with Brown, Hutchins, and current bandmate Greg Readling.
"I feel like it gives Dave a little more freedom to try textures and colors that paint the song in a different light," Brown says. While he's seen shades of Wilson's acoustic efforts creeping into the holiday shows, Wilson takes advantage of the opportunity to push the boundaries of his main project into even more adventurous territory than what's typically considered to be bluegrass.
"There's always been two sides of me in that [songwriting] respect, but I'm trying to really put them together," Wilson explains. "Whether the song needs to be electric or if it needs to be acoustic, I'm all for it—there's really no jail."
Stillhouse finished its third LP last year, but hasn't released it yet—Wilson jokes that he's "waiting to get so unbelievably bored that I just put it online and people can have it." Chatham County Line is also set to record a new album in 2018, and Wilson guesses that the mostly acoustic outfit may explore its rock 'n' roll background even further.
"It'd be really nice to broaden the palette a little bit, just for our fans' sake," he says. "If they've got seven records of acoustic Chatham County Line, it might be nice to have something from us that you can turn down."
Along with hopes of writing songs with a drummer onboard, Chatham County Line electric shows are beginning to become less of a seasonal offering—the band plugged in at both Merlefest and IBMA's Wide Open Bluegrass street festival.
"We're trying to do more of these during the year to mix things up for the long-term fans that are out there but miss the holiday shows," Wilson concludes. "CCL has always kept a toe in the waters of rock 'n' roll, but there's only a few times when we can really electrify the water."
Chatham County Line will dive in with two area shows, beginning Wednesday night in Raleigh and concluding the regional mini-run on Saturday, December 16, at the Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw. —Spencer Griffith