Rolling out of Raleigh, North Carolina, the members of Chatham County Line clearly have a deep respect and heartfelt love of traditional bluegrass music. And each of the members – Dave Wilson (guitar, vocals and harmonica), John Teer (mandolin, fiddle, viola and vocals), Chandler Holt (banjo and vocals) and Greg Readling (upright bass, pedal steel guitar, piano and vocals) – are mighty fine pickers.
But “Wildwood” certainly isn’t a bluegrass album. Rather, it’s a singer-songwriter album played with bluegrass instruments. And there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, “Wildwood” is a damn fine album, chockful of honest, handmade songs (courtesy of Wilson, who penned all of the dozen songs), first-rate musicianship and stellar vocal harmonies.
The rousing “Heart Attack” comes closest to straight-up bluegrass, while “Porcelain Doll” chimes like a close cousin of Mississippi John Hurt’s “Candy Man Blues.” And CCL pays tribute to another folk icon with “Ghost of Woody Guthrie.”
But the song that best illustrates the band’s wide-ranging musical influences is “Ringing in My Ears.” As Wilson sings, “Is my life just a song? One that’s played too long?,” the song’s lyrics reference not only Hank Williams, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, but also Paul Simon, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles and George Harrison.