Chatham County Line "Wildwood" (Yep Roc, 2010)
More Chatham County finery
‘Wildwood’ is Chatham County Line’s fifth album and chances are you know by now what to expect. In many ways then, ‘Wildwood’ does not disappoint. For newcomers, Chatham County Line are known for their ability to take the instruments and general rules of traditional and roots music and then blend them with the moods, melodies and lyrical content of alt-country and rock. It is a compelling combination of genres and if this is all news to you then ‘Wildwood’ is pretty much an essential purchase. If it isn’t you probably already have a copy.
While the “roots, but not” argument is often brought to bear on Chatham County Line, it does a great disservice to the central place traditional music has on their sound. The title track, for instance, is an excellent roots track showing just how well-versed the band are in more traditional forms and just how much affection they have for them - this is where you can find the true heart and soul of the band. Elsewhere tracks such as the excellent ‘Ghost of Woodie Guthrie’, with its more commercial alt-country feel are clearly the bread-and-butter of Chatham County Line.
There is variety aplenty on ‘Wildwood’. ‘Ringing in My Ears’ and ‘Out of the Running’ both open with a rambunctious harmonica, ‘Out of the Running’ drawing on some mesmerising vocal harmonies, while the newly acquired drums give ‘Ringing in My Ears’ a cocksure blues swagger. Chatham County Line are at their very best on ‘Wildwood’ when giving us a taste of their pitch perfect vocal harmonies. ‘Blue Jay Way’ and ‘Crop Comes In’ show up the entire back catalogue of Fleet Foxes, the latter tune couldn’t sound more like a newly uncovered gem of early seventies California cool.
With spot-on instrumentation, wonderful lyrics, beautiful vocals and a staggering range of songs, ‘Wildwood’ is very much a case of a band in full flight doing what they know and doing it better than anyone else. ‘Wildwood’ will be well represented by album of the year nominations. It therefore seems a tad insane to be criticising a band for an album this good, but this praise comes with a final thought: we know Chatham County Line can do Chatham County Line, they did it on ‘Speed of the Whippoorwill’ and ‘IV’. At what point do we get to see the band taking some chances? This is a great band with the potential for a truly great game-changing album. ‘Wildwood’ isn’t it, but it is a hell of a consolation.
Date review added: Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Reviewer: David Harry
Related web link: It's the band's website link!