The tales told in bluegrass songs seem to ring truer or at least bore deeper, and Chatham County Line — singer-songwriter/flat-picker Dave Wilson (also a guitarist in Tift Merritt’s band the Carbines), fiddler/mandolinist John Teer, banjoist Chandler Holt and bassist Ned DuRant — have some good ones to share. The music’s from-another-time feel can make the stories seem as if they’re coming at you from an old RCA radio, like the one that’s sold to buy a bin of coal in the moving ode “WSM (650)”.
Plus, there’s variety aplenty. “Song For John” is a talking-blues-ish bio-song about John Hartford, “Wichita Central” replays the dialogue between a rail-riding hobo and an unsympathetic engineer, and “Brings My Tears” is a murder ballad with a twist ending — an O’Stanley short story.
The performances, mostly captured live around a stereo mike by producer Chris Stamey, are of the same quality as the words, with playing that’s vibrant, economical and democratic; everybody gets a chance to let their bright light shine. Three-part harmonies reign, even going four-part when Merritt joins in on two songs. DuRant’s “The Legend Of ’99” finds Wilson offering an especially rich vocal turn; Teer’s piercing tenor is the perfect traveling companion there and throughout.
The name Muscle Shoals turns up on the tuneful slice of history “TVA”, and it’s a fitting reference. This album, most notably the cover of “I Shall Be Released”, is country soul, both primal and prime.