Autumn is the definition of true, unadulterated bluegrass with only a few modern amenities tossed in for good measure.
Chatham County Line are often openers for the Avett Brothers, and it’s no wonder considering that the two bands have much in common when it comes down to it: both hail from North Carolina and both took the early bluegrass, country, and folk stars of the 1900s music into consideration when developing their initial sounds and finding their first inspirations. This writer in particular was able to see the two on the same bill during his first big-time theater concert in 2015, and was personally able to take in the warmth and authenticity of Dave Wilson (guitar), John Teer (mandolin, fiddle), Greg Readling (upright bass), and Chandler Holt (banjo) as they delivered expert plucking and harmonies to the few thousand in the Tucson audience that night with all of the masterclass gusto that one would expect from a top-notch bluegrass band.
While some bands, Avetts included, have tended to skew from the traditions of their folksy roots to err into more glamorous pop and rock territory over the years -- which isn’t always necessarily a bad thing -- Chatham County Line has deftly stayed their course steadily and truly as a bonafide bluegrass band from start to finish. The aforementioned warmth and authenticity in their sound rings as true on the stage as it does on their recorded outputs, and their latest effort with Yep Roc, Autumn, proves that very fact yet again. Much like the calm of the fall season itself, Autumn is a record which simultaneously envelopes its listeners in a soothing coolness and the organic warmth of a traditional bluegrass hearth.
They play with more separate influences here, from New Orleans lyrical themes (“Bon Ton Roulet”) to ragtime instrumentation complete with piano on closing track “Show Me Your Love”. Regardless of any variation in theme or apparent influences, however, Autumn is an album that maintains its—well, autumnal—glow from beginning to end. Whether it be with the aforementioned closing track, featuring layered harmonies from the boys against an up-tempo ragtime number more or less atypical to their more usual choice of instrumentation, with the mildly exotic, ethereal arrangement of the sensual opener “You Are My Light”, or with a track in between them each such as the spoken word country stomper “If I Had My Way” or the more hushed and haunting design of “Jackie Boy”, the band remain straight-shooters in due respect to their authenticated bluegrass molding.
The end result of Chatham County Line’s latest result in the studio is, arguably, yet another solid installment in a growing portfolio which will hopefully see the Carolina boys through for many years to come. They are masterful pickers and varied songwriters capable of creating an infectious backdrop for their audiences to behold with their innovative, masterclass harmonies. By all intents and purposes, Autumn is the definition of true, unadulterated bluegrass with only a few modern amenities tossed in for good measure.