Chatham County Line
Photo by Steve Spottswood
Carolina Theatre, Durham
Friday, May 30, 2014
Nearing the end of Chatham County Line's Tightrope
release show at the Carolina Theatre, frontman Dave Wilson reminisced about seeing the Del McCoury Band there in the late '90s. He even pointed out where he sat in the balcony. Wilson recalled the impact of watching McCoury and his boys gather around a single microphone; that show helped convince him to pursue bluegrass. He cited the Chatham County Line show at the Carolina Theatre as “full-circle moment."
Of course, Chatham County Line has long been the best bluegrass band in the Triangle, having largely left behind their traditionally minded picking in favor of a slow and steady progression toward more balanced Americana. That was in full display for this performance, which had the band cherry picking from its back catalog—a task that Wilson admitted has become more difficult six albums into their career—while digging deeper into Tightrope
, featuring nearly all of its 11 tracks.
Though he’s always been a strong songwriter, Wilson sent some of his best to Tightrope
, with fully realized vignettes like “Hawk,” a tribute to the eponymous World War II pilot, painting detailed portraits of his characters. The acoustic quartet’s nuanced arrangements help cast the mood for each tale, with John Teer’s fiddle swooping and mandolin dancing between Chandler Holt’s knotty banjo notes. While the picking may not be as flashy, Chatham County Line’s three- and four-part harmonies—which include Greg Readling, who provides rock-solid support on bass—still shine, particularly on slower, poignant numbers like “Girl She Used To Be.”
And just because Chatham County Line has matured into a polished and deliberate roots unit doesn’t mean the foursome won’t kick up a little dust every now and then. The band still pulls out tunes like its breakneck instrumental like “Gunfight in Durango” and the alt-country boot-stomper like “Let It Rock.” By and large, the group’s latest work shows the band settling in to a comfortable storytelling style that better suits the cushy confines of the theaters to which they’ve graduated. Last week in the Carolina, it worked well.
Check out some videos of the performance by Dan Schram below, including one of a Beatles cover from opener Mipso.
Mipso, "Norwegian Wood"
Chatham County Line, "Sixteen Years"
Chatham County Line, "Hawk"
Chatham County Line, "Any Port in a Storm"