Black Music Matters Festival

Chatham County Line

Speed of the Whippoorwill – 2006 (Yep Roc)

Reviewed by John Lupton

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CDs by Chatham County Line

A significant portion of the ongoing youth movement in bluegrass has centered around the Grateful Dead-like appeal and approach of the so-called "jamgrass" bands like Yonder Mountain and Leftover Salmon. There has also been, however, a welcome influx of new young bands like Open Road, King Wilkie, the Steep Canyon Rangers and Chatham County Line that have managed to capture the traditional spirit and drive of the Monroes, Stanleys and other pioneers of the music, yet still bring their own fresh and distinctive elements to the mix.

Instrumentally, Chatham County hangs together well, with plenty of that elusive "drive" that's easier to feel than describe. John Teer's fiddle and Chandler Holt's banjo both demonstrate an intriguing capacity for unusual, but nonetheless compelling licks, and Greg Readling's bass lines are about as solid as they come.

Guitarist Dave Wilson is the band's primary songwriter, with "Company Blues" and "Lonesome In Caroline" (a modern-day Jimmie Rodgers song) standing out here in particular, and as the writer, he's presumably also the lead singer on most of these cuts - the liner notes aren't completely specific. Whoever it is, it's a voice with an eerie quality that defines the band's sound in many ways. It's almost like hearing what Joe Walsh would have sounded like as a bluegrass singer. All around, a very interesting and worthwhile album and band.