Chatham County Line is not your father’s bluegrass band. If you need some convincing, stick with me in this week’s edition of Saturday Soundtrack at least through CCL playing Mick and Keith’s The Last Time with the McIntosh County Shouters.
This is a band that has been playing music and entertaining audiences around the globe for two decades. Based in North Carolina, CCL is led by songwriter, guitarist and vocalist Dave Wilson, who draws inspiration for his work from a wide range of influences. John Teer rotates from mandolin to fiddle, Greg Readling plays standup bass and pedal steel, and Dan Hall on drums rounds out the group.
While I’ve heard the band’s music over the years, I first caught them live at the Red Wing Roots Music Festival in 2015. I mentioned the tune Speed of the Whippoorwill from their 2006 album of the same name in my review. So we’ll begin with this 2011 version of the tune, dedicated — interestingly enough for a roots music band — to audio engineer and clandestine chemist Owsley Stanley, with a nod to John Hartford’s A Long Hot Summer Day thrown in as well.
Their 2010 album Wildwood — one of eight studio projects by the group — included Ghost of Woody Guthrie, performed here by CCL at a performance from the 2019 Oxford American: Landmark Sessions.
The band has pushed themes in their music and appearances — such as social justice and LGBTQ rights — not often heard in bluegrass music. From this 2016 show of Bluegrass Underground, CCL plays Birmingham Jail as a reminder of the lives lost and still lost because of “scared white men.”
“Four little girls tying their sash in the basement room that day / Poking fun and making jokes before getting on their knees to pray / Just so young with all their dreams and years to their end / Strewn away in the rubble by the hatred of scared white men”
I mentioned the various influences on Dave Wilson’s songwriting, and one can see the range on their excellent all-covers 2019 album entitled — appropriately enough — Sharing the Covers. Songs on the album extend from Wilco and Beck to John Lennon, Tom Petty, and John Hartford. I’ve always loved the preservation sensibilities of the Hartford tune They’re Gonna Tear Down the Grand Ole’ Opry from my all-time favorite album. We’ll follow the CCL version with their take on Tom Petty’s You Don’t Know How It Feels.
The band also has collaborations on both album and video that show the various dimensions of their musical interests. In 2019’s Winter Stories, CCL collaborated with the dreamy vocals of Judy Collins and Norwegian singer-songwriter Jonas Fjeld, as heard here on the haunting River.
And from the Sharing the Covers album, CCL is joined on this eTown video by Nick Forster, Anders Osborne, and the wonderful McIntosh County Shouters on The Stone’s The Last Time.
Chatham County Line is playing at The Hamilton in DC tomorrow evening, October 17th. We’ll end with a recent video of The Traveler from their 2014 project Tightrope to get your prepared.
More to come…
Image: Chatham County Line | credit: ChathamCountyLine.com