Chatham County Line
The Pour House
Proudly based in Raleigh, N.C., dapper acoustic quartet Chatham County Line have been honing a fiery mix of bluegrass, gospel, country, and rockabilly for several years. On Thursday evening (Dec. 17), they led their celebratory "Holiday Road Tour" to the Pour House for two peppery sets of string band merriment.
With lead singer, acoustic guitarist, and chief songwriter Dave Wilson on the hot main mic (and in a noticeably cheerful and humorous mood), the band picked and thumped through an entirely acoustic first set. Between some of the slightly reworked mountain music traditionals and bluegrass standards, Chatham performed a handful of originals from their most recent record, IV (released last year on Yep Roc Records), plus several soon-to-be-released tunes. A sentimental holiday song (titled "Oh Santa, What Did You Bring Me") brought on a warm call-and-response with the audience.
The room filled out with young local fans and a few old-timer bluegrass enthusiasts. "You girls would sure seem prettier if you didn't talk so loud during the quiet songs," Wilson half-joked to some of the louder, tipsier attendees close to the stage.
All four musicians followed the traditional, gather-around-the-microphone stage performance — although they shuffled around one large diaphragm cardioid condenser mic, they had two small directional mics aimed at the instruments as well). The stripped-down set-up picked up the pickin' and strummin' with amazing clarity and zero feedback.
Bespectacled, tall-standing bassist Greg Readling leaned in to sing many of the high notes in harmony with Wilson's already high-toned tenor. Fiddler/mandolin player John Teer and banjoist Chandler Holt swapped more than a few hot solos and harmonies as well. Teer's aggressive and sometimes blazingly-fast mandolin solos brought immediate cheers. The good chemistry between all four bandmates was on full display.
Set two featured a full-band, and more amplified arrangement, with guest bassist Jay Brown and drummer Zeke Hutchins (both from N.C. songwriter Tift Merritt's rhythm section). Pianist/guitarist Johnny Irion (husband and bandmate of Sarah Lee Guthrie) switched instruments through the set, and he even sang lead on a few tunes. Hutchins' super-steady style resembled those of Levon Helm and Jim Keltner, thus the electrified CCL set inevitably resembled the mid-tempo slink of The Band and rootsy, harmony-laden sunniness of the Traveling Wilburys — with just a touch of Glen Campbell's melodic country-pop for good measure.