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Chatham County Line

Sight & Sound – 2012 (Yep Roc)

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

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CDs by Chatham County Line

For a band whose live show is essential to understanding just how they create their finely crafted sound, a live album is a no-brainer. Someone in the Chatham County Line camp definitely had their thinking cap on when they decided to bundle a live album with a companion DVD of the same performances, allowing fans to not only hear, but see the band in its natural habitat on stage.

Hewing to a very traditional bluegrass style with their single-microphone technique, CCL weave and bob in and out of the front line while they play, allowing each instrumentalist in turn to shine. For anyone who has not seen a single-mic bluegrass band like this before, it's a dance of sorts, an intricately choreographed part of the performance. All of which makes the visual part of this package as important as the music.

The songs are drawn from throughout CCL's decade-long existence, with an emphasis on the more recent albums. One of the things that set the band apart from the beginning was its insistence on writing their own songs, albeit in a fairly traditional style. Some of CCL's best tunes are here, such as the upbeat When the Crop Comes In, which channels field hollers and farm hands along with good old fashioned harmony singing. Birmingham Jail smolders and shows the band not afraid to tackle more topical fare, while Speed of the Whipporwill is still just about the prettiest bluegrass song of this young century.

When non-bluegrass fans profess to disliking the genre, always tell them not to judge the music until they have had a chance to hear a good band play it in a live setting; with this DVD/CD set from CCL, sit them down with it, and they'll understand.