Music

Chatham County Line: Speed of the Whippoorwill

While Chatham County Line is certainly a traditional bluegrass band, they aren't afraid to provide creative variations to an established theme.


Chatham County Line

Speed of the Whippoorwill

Label: Yep Roc Records
US Release Date: 2006-05-30
UK Release Date: 2006-06-26
Amazon
iTunes

It's called traditional bluegrass for a reason. Unless you are the Bad Livers, the Meat Purveyors, or another bluegrass outfit with animal protein in your title, you likely work within a well-worn set of parameters. You use acoustic instruments (exhibiting disdain for drums and Dobros), sing in harmony, and demonstrate good storytelling. Chatham County Line's Speed of the Whippoorwill, the band's well-executed third studio album, acknowledges but creatively blurs these parameters by thoughtfully complementing delicate harmonies, solid songwriting, and driving instrumental leads with the occasional pedal steel guitar and organ.

Though name-checked comparisons to other artists can become tiresome and misleading, they also can be very useful -- and very complimentary. Chatham County Line's bandleader, Dave Wilson, is likely in his 30s, but his voice has a power and delicacy reminiscent of the present elder statesman of bluegrass, Del McCoury. Wilson wrote or co-wrote all of the compositions on Speed of the Whippoorwill, and the mid-tempo title song includes a memorable melody that accentuates the longing in his voice: "I know I had to leave you/ there was work to be done / I swear when this job is over/ It's to you I'm gonna run..."

Wilson and his three bandmates provide ample instrumental and vocal prowess for their relatively young age, as proved on opener "Company Blues". "Rock Pile", an upbeat number which borrows a rockabilly beat, demonstrates the band's comfort with Nashville Bluegrass Band-style harmonies. Tight vocal harmonies are also a highlight of live-recorded "Lonesome in Caroline", a song befitting a band that calls Raleigh, North Carolina, home. The beautiful gospel number "Waiting Paradise" asks if heaven will be the final home and is very reminiscent of -- and on par with -- Bill Monroe's best gospel sides.

Monroe, however, likely wouldn't approve of Chatham County Line's stylistic deviations. These deviations come courtesy of Greg Readling, a multi-instrumentalist who has spent time with fellow North Carolinians Tift Merritt and Chris Stamey. Readling uses his understated pedal steel punctuation to create a classic country feel in the war narrative "Confederate Solider" and to provide a heap of heartbreak on "All the Ladies in the Town". Although his contributions on the organ are less prominent, they still provide welcome color to the sonic palette. While Chatham County Line is certainly a traditional bluegrass band, they aren't afraid to provide creative variations to an established theme.

Speed of the Whippoorwill is weakest during its pair of sub-two-minute love songs, "Day I Die" and "Come Back to Me", which share an impromptu -- and yet carelessly slapdash -- feeling. Otherwise, this is a solidly-crafted release and a fine example of what keeps music fans -- and bluegrass fanatics -- coming back to this genre.

7

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image