Chatham County Line

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Review Date October 30, 2011

Review By John Jobling

Location Gateshead Old Town Hall

Maverick readers should need little introduction to this band … having been well-played by Bob Harris on Radio Two as well as an appearance on Jools Holland a couple of years ago … they have performed regularly in the UK. In fact this is the third of their wonderful shows I’ve seen as Chatham County Line (CCL) have been regularly booked by the Jumping Hot Club. I can put it no better than the introduction given by the Hot Club’s own Geoff who stated that, in his opinion: “Singer Dave Wilson has the most soulful voice in bluegrass’ … and you know what? He’s right! To call CCL purely a bluegrass band is doing them a massive disservice. Yes they play in the traditional bluegrass manner, all congregated around a single microphone as they weave in and out to sing/play their parts like a well-oiled train timetable. But CCL bring an extra dimension to the genre. I am sure this is due in no small part to the high quality of the original songwriting they bring to their music. With no new material to promote this gave an opportunity for a packed Town Hall to hear songs from throughout the band’s career. Considering that career encompasses five albums in their eight year recording history we were in for a treat. Playing in front of the State Flag Of North Carolina they kicked off with Route 23 from the album of the same name telling the tale of an “old boarded up gas station’ that became so due to the building of a new highway that bypassed the town. There followed more songs based around stories and people from their native state including Wildwood, Country Boy City Blues-that they played for Jools-and By The Riverside were just a few of the delights we were treated to. Interspersed were little cameos of banjo tunes by the just brilliant John Teare and a glorious mandolin instrumental named after a girl, Paige, with whom he had a dinner date then never heard from again, which somehow inspired the tune. It is hard to express in words just how talented and hardworking these four guys are. All dressed in sharp suits and ties with Dave Wilson sporting a fine whiskers and beard they look more like bankers than musicians. But when they came out for an encore of requests and played, for me their best two songs Birmingham Jail-a heartrending tale of bigotry that led to the murder of innocent children that was played with such an intensity it seemed as if the boot-heels stamping on the choruses would ignite sparks on the stage-and The Carolinian a train song of unrequited love about a beautiful girl who was going on to Richmond while the singer had to leave at Raleigh where his wife was expecting his child: “… When the train reached the station, she looked me in the eye/Said, come with me to Richmond and we’ll start a brand new life/Well you know that moment still weighs on my mind/”Cause I took my body to Raleigh, and left my heart behind She’s in Richmond with my heart-And I’m bound for Carolina …’ says it all. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house after that. Soulful bluegrass indeed!

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