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Chatham County Line (from the album Hiyo available on Yep Roc Records) (by Lee Zimmerman)
Based in Raleigh, North Carolina, Chatham County Line emerged out of a band called Stillhouse and has since gone on to release ten albums on the Yep Roc label. While they’ve been loosely termed ‘Americana’ Chatham County Line have often been identified as a Bluegrass band as well. However, with Hiyo, their new album, they’ve managed to expand their sound by adding synths, drum machines, and various instrumental studio effects to their already eclectic mix.
The new additives have altered their sound considerably. On the track “Magic”, the sweep of sound actually brings to mind Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion”. “Way Down Yonder” maintains a down home noir despite its atmospheric designs. So too, the slow sprawl of “Heaven” and “Lone Ranger” are accompanied by a sense of wistful reflection, effectively enhanced by deeper layers of atmospheric ambiance. The same can be said of the closing track, “Summerline”, an eerie and somewhat unsettling way to end the album.
Much of the credit for the change in tack can be attributed to co-producers Dave Wilson and Rachael Moore, whom the trio met while serving as the backing band on the Showtime series “George & Tammy”. Both parties agreed to try this different turn.
The result is a somewhat daring change to Chatham County Line’s traditional sound and one that injects it with a more progressive posture. Happily, it finds a nice blend with the band’s own imaginative instincts and evocative songs. However, in the process, it helps redefine the band’s essential identity, taking the group beyond their rural roots and elevating them to a new tier beyond their rootsier contemporaries.
Naturally, as with any shift in sound and stance, this particular development carries some degree of risk. Longtime fans may be dismayed by the experimental nature of these proceedings. Even a song like “BSR,” which, under normal circumstances, might come across as an unassuming Country ramble, here takes the form of a psychedelic sojourn. The instrumental “Under the Willow Tree” and the two subdued ballads, “Stone” and “She’s Got You”, bear an unassuming stance, but their low-key presentation runs contrary to the rest of the denser textures that permeate the album overall.
‘You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here’ singer Dave Wilson suggests on the song titled “Heaven”. If Hiyo indeed marks a transition, then perhaps there’s an ultimate destination that’s yet to be determined.
(by Lee Zimmerman)
Listen and buy the music of Chatham County Line from AMAZON
For more info, check out the Chatham County Line website
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