Any band can offer up an album of covers. That's a given and a no-brainer at that. For some outfits, it merely means they're in a holding pattern, offering up a stopgap effort prior to regaining their muse and moving forward with new momentum.
North Carolina's Chatham County Line provide an exception to that axiom as proven with "Sharing the Covers," a set of songs that effectively puts a new perspective on various well known standards. A blazing rendition of Wilco's "I Got You (At the End of the Century)" contrasts with an unlikely take on the Safari's classic "Walk Don't Run," while a faithful rendition of Tom Petty's "You Don't Know How It Feels" finds them proving their ability to scour a remarkably wide range of musical terrain. A low-lustre version of John Lennon's "Watching the Wheels" emphasizes the confessional aspects of that song while bringing a new dimension to its somber and sobering tones.
Although often referred to as a bluegrass band, Chatham County Line effectively breach those boundaries this time around. Granted, mandolin, banjo and fiddle all play a major role in the proceedings, but other than the rustic tint given such songs as "Tear Down the Grand Ole Opry" and "Bumblebee," there's little hint of any backwoods tapestry. That said, it's curious how they're able to transform the forward propulsion of the Rolling Stones' "The Last Time" into a comforting country ramble. It's a sign of both competence and confidence, all of which verifies their ability to find a careful balance between reverence for the originals and their own trademark touch.
Ultimately, "Sharing the Covers" provides another high point in a career that's advanced from peak to peak. "Sharing the Covers" is well worth the time it takes to indulge.
Lee Zimmerman is a freelance writer and author based in Maryville, Tenn. He also expounds on music on his web site, Stories Beyond the Music - Americana Music Reviews, Interviews & Articles. His new book - "Americana Music - Voices, Visionaries and Pioneers of an Honest Sound" - is available from Texas A&M University Publishing.