CHATHAM COUNTY LINE
Album review: "Sight & Sound"
By Geoffrey Himes
Friday, August 10, 2012
The DVD half of the Chatham County Line’s new two-disc package opens with four young men wearing matching suits and ties crowded around a single microphone and holding a mandolin, banjo, upright bass and acoustic guitar. They resemble a traditional bluegrass band, but when guitarist Dave Wilson begins singing “Crop Comes In,” the minor chords, patient tempo and bittersweet irony owe more to Neil Young than to Bill Monroe. This blend of bluegrass arrangements and folk-rock songwriting has led to five terrific, if underappreciated, studio albums from the North Carolina quartet since 2003.
That accomplishment is summed up on “Sight & Sound,” a collection of performances recorded in Atlanta and Raleigh, N.C., during the summer of 2010. All five of the previous albums are well represented.
Wilson handles most of the singing and songwriting, but the songs wouldn’t be as effective without the percussive thwap of the banjo and mandolin and the edgy, high-harmony vocals of mandolinist-fiddler John Teer, which lend an edge to Wilson’s warm tenor. The songs include such triumphs as “The Carolinian” (about a missed romantic opportunity on the train from Washington to Richmond) and “Birmingham Jail” (about the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and George Wallace in 1963).