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Happy Hosting, Happy New Year - Rob Ellen
North Carolina ensemble Chatham County Line are a well established, and hugely creative band. This Durham, NC recorded album is their eighth studio record. Sharing The Covers demonstrates how they aren’t slow at coming up with innovative ideas, there was a time when they would have been labelled a New Grass band. Americana suits them better still.
Made up of Dave Wilson (acoustic guitar, lead vocals), John Teer (mandolin, fiddle, vocals), Chandler Holt (band) and Greg Readling (bass, pedal steel, pedal steel) the boys pay homage to the likes The Delmore and Louvin Brothers, John Hartford, Tut Taylor and others. Among which you have a Truckin’ song by way of Girl On The Billboard (Del Reeves) and The Stanley Brothers by way of Carter Stanley’s Think Of What You’ve Done plus the Hartford - Taylor composition, melancholy piece Tear Down The Grand Ole Opry.
Combing bluegrass, folk and country music the acoustic combo prise musically boundaries with their tight vocal harmonies and a commanding, but never over powering lead vocal. With the album title Sharing The Covers a dead give away the boys rely entirely on the songs of others. Tried and trusted ones at that. For the covers also included music of the Rolling Stones’ The Last Time, Beck (I well recall Bobby Bare doing a fine cover in the 1980s), Wilco; the album opens with a striking version of I Got You (At The End Of The Century) and they continue to share unexpected nugents by way of Tom Petty’s You Don’t Know How It Feels, Beck’s Think I’m In Love, John Lennon’s Watching The Wheels (the thoughtful lyrics could apply to many people) as the reflective ode is warmed with tasty mandolin. While James Hunter’s People Gonna Talk enjoys some really good banjo licks. A surprising source, but like with them all CCL give their spin to the song without any disruption.
Eclectic. Daring even, because doing a full album of established songs could have left them hanging. As it is they repeatedly come up with a striking version of something or other, or as in the case of a time worn classic Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar a version that sets them aside from all-comers. Such is the way they reshape it into their own song! With fine lead vocals, Readling’s piano and, as you would expected a large focus of vocal harmonies it might well be my favourite track. One of its biggest challengers is the Louvins’ biggie My Baby’s Gone (Hazel Houser) as they pay tribute with another song steeped in harmonies. Walk Don’t Run is an opportunity for the boys to flex their instrumental worth, and they don’t take the chance lightly. If CCL were little or unknown to you before you give the record listen they have a bunch of albums well worth checking out.
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