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Album Review

Chatham County Line's roots are deep in bluegrass, and that's clearly not about to change, but after ten years together, the group keeps adding different flavors into the formula with each album, and on their fifth, Wildwood, their songwriting and arrangements find them showing how far they can push the boundaries of the genre while still respecting its forms and traditions. The presence of drums on "Saturdays and Sundays" and "Out of the Running" will be enough to outrage many bluegrass purists all by itself, and the piano and pedal steel that pop up throughout the set sure won't make old-timey fans feel at home, either. And while the songwriting often follows the classic high lonesome template, the light but clear Rolling Stones influences on "Ringing in My Ears," the rock & roll stomp of "End of the Line," and the lingering dread of "Blue Jay Way" (not the Beatles tune) are a reminder that this band exists in the 21st century and aren't about to ignore their many influences outside Bill Monroe. But the superb close harmonies, Chandler Holt's banjo, Dave Wilson's guitar, John Teer's mandolin and fiddle, and Greg Readling's doghouse bass still sound as pure and invigorating as a mountain stream, and while they refuse to be restrained by their acoustic quartet format, they also know just how well it can work when the pieces fit right, and the interplay between these players is honest, intuitive, and powerful. And if "Ghost of Woody Guthrie," "Honeymoon," and the title tune sound more like tradtionalist bluegrass, they confirm that CCL can write and play intelligent and deeply personal music within that framework. Not many bands bring together bluegrass' past and present the way Chatham County Line do, and fewer still can do it this well; Wildwood shows they keep getting better as they follow new stylistic detours in their music.

Customer Reviews


First exposure to Chatham County Line. How often do you listen to the first few seconds of a new artist / album and know you're hooked? This is an outstanding, inspirational album that lifts the heart and leaves you wanting more.


Formed: 1999 in Raleigh, NC

Genre: Country

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Merging a traditional bluegrass sound and first-class picking with pithy songwriting that often confronts personal issues and political matters head on, Chatham County Line are a North Carolina foursome who first came together in 1999. In the mid-'90s, guitarist Dave Wilson was a member of a country-rock band called Stillhouse, whose sound merged Gram Parsons and Neil Young, when he met Greg Readling, a pedal steel player who could also handle upright bass. Both were interested in the possibility...
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Customer Ratings

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