Music News

Chatham County Line

It would be only natural to surmise that this North Carolina combo called Chatham County Line has returned to its roots, given the fact that it's reunited with former producer Chris Stamey and that its aptly named fourth album recaptures the essence of its original back-porch motif. This is, after all, a band that's always been drawn to the basics, one whose standard setup of guitar, fiddle, bass, banjo, and mandolin parlays a rural regimen, albeit with an insurgent intent. The only hitch in that assumption is the reality that... well... this isn't the bluegrass barnstormer the foregoing description might otherwise imply. Although songs like "Chip of a Star," "Birmingham Jail," and "Thanks" convey rustic, homespun designs, the emphasis on world-weary reflection and elegiac sentiment finds the music resonating with a more cerebral stance. Even the more up-tempo tunes — "I Got Worry" and "Whipping Boy" in particular — say as much about attitude as they do about aptitude. The band may stake a claim to a down-home sound, but it also knows how to up the ante with edge and intensity. Consequently, even those listeners who have no particular affinity for any sort of bluegrass ballyhoo will find themselves drawn to this spunky ensemble's approach. At this stage in its career, Chatham County Line is well worth watching.

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Lee Zimmerman