July 21, 2012

Concert #645 - Chatham County Line at McCabe's Guitar Shop (July 20, 2012)

About a year ago, when I first saw the name of the band, I said to myself "What a great name for a bluegrass band". Last night at McCabe's, the stage setup was just as good, with a large North Carolina state flag decorating the wall behind the four proud North Carolinians who call themselves the Chatham County Line. Band leader Dave Wilson promptly reassured the crowd that they had not planted the flag there with any territorial claims in mind and that the flag would be gone as soon as they left town. Indeed, good humor accompanied good music throughout the evening, with pleasing results.

The stage
Band line-up
Dave Wilson - Lead vocals, guitar, mouth harmonica
John Teer - Mandolin, fiddle, vocals, adult humor
Chandler Holt - Banjo, vocals
Greg Readling - Upright bass, vocals

The band plays a style of music that, at least to these ears, is pretty close to classic bluegrass, without an obvious attempt to modernize or innovate, and I don't mean it as a negative. But creative they definitely are, especially when it comes to the handling of their sound. Only the upright bass was plugged in and there was only one mike stand that held three microphones: one on top for voices and two lower ones for the string instruments, with anyone wanting to be heard having to position himself close to the stand. What followed was an endless series of well-choreographed moves, as the four musicians were stepping back, moving up or changing places on the fly, so that whoever had to be near the mikes could actually be there, and yes, there were brief stretches of time when the four of them were bunched up together at the center of the stage.

The band's microphone stand
To the band's credit, most of the songs they played last night were originals and they sounded quite good. Their two all-instrumental numbers, especially John Teer's "Paige", were well received by the crowd. The band functioned like a Swiss watch, but one would expect that from four musicians who have been together for ten years or so. The vocal harmonies were great,  the chatter was short, funny and informative. The two songs I liked the best were "The Carolinian" and "Waiting Paradise".

Waiting Paradise
By The Riverside
The Carolinian
One More Minute
Birmingham Jail
Born To Be With You
Whipping Boy
Alone In New York
Speed Of The Whippoorwill
Tear Down The Grand Ole Opry
Route 23

The Chatham County Line at McCabe's
The Chatham County Line accepting the crowd's applause
To sum things up, what I saw and heard last night was enjoyable. If you like traditional bluegrass, this act is for you.
Dave and John chatting with fans after the show
The band's merchandise

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