ASHEVILLE, NC — “There’s a lot of growing up in this record,” muses Dave Wilson, Chatham County Line‘s vocalist and guitarist. “The next generation is coming. We’re maturing in this world and seeing things through a different set of eyes – and that materializes in a lot of these songs…”
“Chatham County Line is much more than your average banjo-playing, fiddle-fueled combo… they infuse their music with a seemingly effortless accessibility capable of connecting them with a broader Americana audience.”
–Blurt Magazine, Lee Zimmerman
Entering their second decade as an ensemble, Chatham County elegantly reconcile the past and future, tradition and innovation, on the fittingly titled Tightrope, released May 20, 2014 on Yep Roc Records. The sixth studio album from the Raleigh-based four-piece follows 2010’s winsome, soulful Wildwood and the career-spanning concert album and film undertaking Sight & Sound, which was released in 2012. “With anything you’ve done for a while,” Wilson explains, “a period of reflection helps you identify your strengths. Doing the live album did that, and in a way, we do that every night with the songs we choose to play at a live show. We usually don’t use set lists, we just play the songs that come to mind. That really helped us prepare for this record.”
Stirring, provocative, and disarmingly poignant, Tightrope was born out of a year’s worth of intense focus, during which the band examined their own legacy while carefully honing new material. All the while, the band’s four members –Dave Wilson (guitar), John Teer (mandolin, fiddle), Chandler Holt (banjo), and Greg Readling (bass, pedal steel, piano) – welcomed spontaneity and the sometimes palpable will of the songs themselves into the process.
Produced by Wilson and Chatham County Line, Tightrope benefits from an unusually rich, resonant sound that blends each member’s contributions into a powerful, dynamic whole. The poetic insight of the album’s eleven original songs is grounded by Chatham County Line’s ongoing commitment to classic stringband instrumentation.
Chatham County Line allowed some songs to emerge out of informal jams or nascent fragments of melody. “Songs like ‘Should Have Known Better’ and ‘Ships at Sea’ were based on ideas that Teer had,” Wilson explains. “We’d have instruments and mics set up, record the idea, and people would take the recording home and dissect it. We recorded them informally three or four times until we got something that could fit and make sense with what we do. It’s those songs that we listen to the most now, because they were such spur-of-the-moment creations.”
Only two of Tightrope‘s songs had been in the band’s repertoire for any length of time. “We’ve been playing ‘The Traveler’ for about three years,” Wilson says, explaining the opening track’s confident, lived-in performance. “We actually recorded ‘Will You Still Love Me’ for Wildwood,” he adds, referring to a charming query that is among the album’s bouncier, more bluegrass-inflected numbers, “but I was never happy with the lyrics. I completely rewrote the verses. I’ve come to realize that, when you write a song and release it, it’s something you’re gonna have to live with all your life. In the end, we got a much better song.”
Above all, Tightrope reinforces the deep bond shared by the members of Chatham County Line. The lineup has consisted of the same four men for ten years now, giving them an unusually solid foundation. They have grown up together, weathered storms together, and performed around the world – resulting in a vital, instinctive collaborative sensibility and deep reserves of trust. “This band really started out of a couple of friendships,” Wilson concludes. “I was buddies with Greg, and John and Chandler were really tight. We came together by chance. You can’t just rotate a guy out and replace him when you have these friendships and do this kind of original material. It’s become something larger than that. It’s a big train we’re riding on and everybody’s enjoying the ride.”
Chatham County Line on Tour:
9/13 Sat – Mountain Song Festival – Brevard, NC 9/26 – Fri – Greenfield Lake Amphitheatre – Wilmington, NC 9/27 Sat – Charleston Music Hall – Charleston, SC
10/1-3 Wed-Fri – IBMA World of Bluegrass – Raleigh, NC 10/10 Fri – Neighborhood Theatre – Charlotte, NC 10/11 Sat – Terminal West – Atlanta, GA 10/14 Tue – Rockwood Music Hall – New York, NY 10/15 Wed – The Parlor Room – Northampton, MA 10/16 Thu – Infinity Hall – Norfolk, CT 10/17 Fri – The Press Room – Portsmouth, NH 10/18 Sat – Brighton Music Hall – Boston, MA
11/14-23 European TourFor more information and updates from the road, please visit www.chathamcountyline.com.