Music

Chatham County Line: Wildwood

Timeless and beguiling; the best album yet from the North Carolinians.


Chatham County Line

Wildwood

Label: Yep Roc
US Release Date: 2010-07-12
UK Release Date: 2010-07-12
Amazon
iTunes

Wildwood, Chatham County Line’s fifth full-length album since their self-titled 2003 debut, finds the group continuing to go from strength to strength. The Raleigh-based band’s subtly evolving brand of bluegrass, country, and folk remains instantly reassuring, while the stellar quality of their original song-writing keeps their work fresh and relevant. The new album expands their sound to include piano, drums, and other instrumentation, and while there’s no single track here that has the power and impact of “Birmingham Jail”, the great song about the 1963 Baptist Church Bombing from their last release IV (2008), with Wildwood Chatham County Line have produced their most sustained and consistently compelling record yet.

Once again, the quartet prove themselves adept at both reflection and exuberance on Wildwood. Dave Wilson’s warm, reedy vocals and the sympathetic accompaniment and harmonies of banjo player Chandler Holt, bassist Greg Readling, and multi-instrumentalist John Teer create an inviting tone. The playing, as always, is exemplary: loose yet controlled, sensitive yet impassioned. The laconic but sturdy “Saturdays and Sundays”, the driving bluegrass of “Heart Attack”, the pop-meets-pedal-steel of “Out of the Running”, and the infectious closer “End of the Line” are among the album’s most immediately appealing moments. But it’s ultimately the tracks that tap into the genre's tried-and-true themes of heartache and lonesomeness that cut the deepest, notably the truly gorgeous yearning of “Alone In New York” and the gentle, understated “Blue Jay Way”.

The disarming title track -- on which the narrator gently extricates himself from the role of comforter and protector -- and the sublime “Crop Comes In” -- a dialogue between a “poor boy” and his demanding, upwardly mobile date which edges, musically, towards the Band -- are also standouts. Even the tracks that sound irredeemably sappy on paper (a father’s expression of devotion to a newborn on “Porcelain Doll” and the unabashed love song “Honeymoon”) become tender, heartfelt statements thanks to tight arrangements, beguiling melodies, and the quiet authority of Wilson’s voice.

Despite consistent acclaim, Chatham County Line have yet to achieve the same level of international recognition of, say, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, though they tap into a similarly rich and vibrant seam of Americana. But the accomplished and entirely delightful Wildwood -- which has the same kind of unassuming, cordial warmth as Rawlings’s Friend of a Friend album from last year -- will ensure that their reputation only continues to rise.

8
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.

Books

90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.

Music

Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

‘The Avengers’ Offer a Lesson for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.

Music

Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.

Music

Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.

Books

First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?

Reviews

HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.

Music

Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Music

How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.

Music

Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.