Chatham County pushing bluegrass forward
When the members of Chatham County Line ” a hot new bluegrass band that has melded country and rock with around-the-mic bluegrass ” want to unwind, they generally head out into the wilds.
Just recently they were in Twin Lakes fishing and playing their music.
“Just the band and some whisky and some fishing rods,” said Dave Wilson, the band’s guitar player and principal songwriter. “It really helps to be stuck somewhere with nothing to do except sit around and pick. It gets our creative juices going. We try to put in a little extra empty day or two in Colorado where you’ll kick yourself if you don’t get out and do something.”
The band, playing from noon to 3 p.m. today in the free bluegrass series at the Sundeck on Aspen Mountain, hails from Raleigh, N.C., where three out of the four band members went to school, at North Carolina State.
In ’96 Wilson was a sophomore playing in a band called Stillhouse and living in an infamous house of musicians and partyers.
“Any kind of place where you can play as loud as you want as late as you want is a good situation,” he said.
It was during that time that Greg Readling, who was just learning pedal steel, started jamming with Wilson.
At a big party one night, Chandler Holt, the banjo player, and multi-instrumentalist John Holt showed up to hang out and watch Stillhouse. There, they got to be friends with Wilson, who eventually asked them if they wanted to create
a bluegrass band.
“It’s probably been four or five years since we’ve been playing together,” Wilson said. “Three records out, people take you really seriously. Things really couldn’t be better, getting paid to do what we love to do.”
“Route 23,” the latest album, does justice to the bluegrass greats like Earl Skruggs and Doc Watson, but it also takes steps into new realms. The music doesn’t have drums and it’s not rock, but there’s some serious rocking out.
“Bluegrass now really can mean a lot of different things,” Wilson said. “People take it to be a personification of the 1946 Bill Monroe when Skruggs joined the band. That’s when the picking style of banjo got involved. A lot of people try to personify that band and we’re playing the instruments they made famous.”
Even so, it’s 60 years from that point, and while bluegrass generally is more tradition-based than some other forms of American music, it has been adapting more and more ” Chatham County is part of that forward movement.
“We’re looking forward to this Aspen show,” Wilson said. “We played that same thing last summer. It’s fine if you can handle the altitude. We’re flatlanders. You have to do different things with your voice to make the same notes come out.”
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