Chatham County Line – Wildwood

January 01, 1970

(Yep Roc)


The mandolin and banjo picking, the three-part harmonies,
the penchant for dark suits and ties, and the rural themes signify bluegrass,
but North Carolina’s Chatham County Line don’t sound like new traditionalists.
The quartet uses bluegrass as a loving base, but on Wildwood, their fifth album, they sound at home in a world
unrestricted by the genre’s formalist conventions. When the band veers towards
a pop tune structure on “Saturdays & Sundays,” the close harmonies recall
the Bodeans (remember “She’s a Runaway”?), and the hint of reverb on the sweet
lament “Alone in New York” would sit well next to anything from Ryan Adams’ Heartbreaker. And Wildwood‘s world occasionally includes drums-a Chatham County
first, and something that would horrify bluegrass purists-courtesy of Zeke
Hutchins (from Tift Merritt’s band). Those drums don’t make Wildwood CCL’s rock album; they haven’t
gone electric, after all. Aside from bluesy stomp of “Ringing in My Ears”
(which namedrops song titles from Paul Simon, Smokey Robinson and others, but
sounds a lot like a Beggars Banquet-era
Stones tune), the album’s core is still in sweet and lovely ballads such as
“Porcelain Doll” and “Crop Comes In” and in breakneck Appalachian pickers such
as “Heart Attack.” The album fades a little at the end, with the molasses-slow
“Blue Jay Way” (which isn’t a Beatles cover, although that would be a fine
idea) and with “End of the Line,” which is the one time that Wildwood works too narrowly within a
tradition, in this case the end-of-life, “we’ve all got to go” celebration. But
by that time Wildwood‘s charms have
already become abundantly clear: they don’t challenge conventions but instead
caress them.


Doll,” “Ghost of Woody Guthrie”  STEVE





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