Album Review: Chatham County Line – Wildwood

Juli Thanki | July 14th, 2010

Chatham County Line - WildwoodWith each album, Chatham County Line tests their limits a little bit more. The North Carolina quartet has morphed from the fairly straightforward bluegrass band found on their 2003 self-titled debut to a bluegrass-rock-alt-country hybrid on 2007’s excellent IV.

Fifth album Wildwood is a hit and miss record that fails to live up to the high standards set by IV. Though its inclusion of piano, drums, and pedal steel make it the band’s most musically diverse album, it’s the least interesting. Some of Dave Wilson’s best lyrics can be found on the album as he sings a tender lullaby (“Porcelain Doll”) and laments social injustices (“Ghost of Woody Guthrie”), but there are a few too many forgettable songs (the tepid “Honeymoon” and “Blue Jay Way,” to mention two) that drag down the rest of the album.

There are a few bright spots: the pensive “Alone in NY,” with Wilson’s mournful vocals and Chandler Holt’s delicate banjo licks, perfectly encapsulates the feeling of aloneness that can only come in a giant city full of strangers, while the Jayhawks-esque alt-country ballad “Crop Comes In” showcases CCL’s harmonies set to Greg Readling’s pedal steel. Closing track “End of the Line” is an acoustic boogie that harnesses the energy of Chatham County Line’s live performances, an energy that seems to be missing from several of Wildwood’s dozen tracks.

Wildwood isn’t a bad album, but it is disappointing, considering that Chatham County Line can–and has–done better work before.

3 Stars

  1. Sam G.
    July 14, 2010 at 7:42 am

    Disappointing to hear, because they’re one of my favorites. I really liked “Crop Comes In” and was hoping the rest of the album was along those lines. I’ll likely still end up checking it out.

  2. Karlie Justus
    July 14, 2010 at 8:09 am

    I listened to this yesterday for the first time and had the exact same reaction – overall it felt pretty monotonous with the few standouts you mention. It just seemed a little…sluggish.

  3. WAYNOE
    July 14, 2010 at 10:12 am

    Sam G,

    Don’t be disappointed just because of the review. Listen to the album and make your own determination. A reviewer’s comments should have no bearing on my one’s of songs or albums.

  4. WAYNOE
    July 14, 2010 at 10:14 am

    Oops. I hit the submit too soon. Last sentence should read, “A reviewer’s comments should have no bearing on one’s own personal view of songs or albums.”

  5. Kelly
    July 14, 2010 at 10:58 am

    I’ve liked what I’ve heard so far form this album, but I’m ont very familiar with their previous offerings, either.

    Waynoe – for someone that doesnt think a critic’ opinion should have any bearing on a consumer’s decision, you sure like to tell others what to do a whole hell of a lot.

    Not sure what you’re beef against critics has always been, but it’s always been pretty comical to me, especially when you consider given the amount of attention you pay to this site.

  6. Kelly
    July 14, 2010 at 11:00 am

    Sorry for my bad grammar above. Typing while I eat lunch :-)

  7. WAYNOE
    July 14, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Kelly,

    Actually giving someone the advice that I did to Sam was very responsible. You actually disagree with the statement that one should listen for themselves to make their own determination instead of what a self-anointed critic states? Now THAT’S COMICAL.

    I actually spend little time on this site. I can peruse very quickly and make my many worthwhile comments with ease and in a timely manner.

    By the way, how do you know I have a beef with critics unless you read all my posts? I’m flattered.

    It never ceases to amaze me how critics can sit back and punch holes in someone’s work all day long but God forbid the person that disagrees with them. It’s like an untouchable area or something.

    Simply put, if critics have the right to evaluate and criticize a performer’s work, then we have the right to evaluate and criticize the critics.

    Sorry if free speech for BOTH sides of the aisle is not acceptable to you.

  8. Kelly
    July 14, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Waynoe – What you gave to Sam wasnt advice, it was a command. Sure, I read a good portion of your comments, as well as many of the other comments on this site. Dont be too flattered.

    I know that you have a beef with the critics here, simply due to the amount of bitching that you aim towards the writers and not their actual opinions or to the music being presented.

    You’re not fooling anyone with your nonchalant claims regarding this site. You freaking keep score on which way the reviews go. Keep up the sham, even though it’s a relatively transparent one.

  9. Rick
    July 14, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    Thank goodness for the availability of single song MP3 downloads so I don’t have to waste money on mediocre filler material any longer! This album sounds like a perfect candidate for picking out just the gems scattered among the sonic rubble. I just wish Amazon would up the MP3 rate to 320kps and the labels/bands would put more thought and production effort into high quality sound! Argh!

  10. Sam G.
    July 14, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    Waynoe:

    Thanks for the advice. However, being a critic on The 9513, I’m pretty well aware of the purpose of these reviews. My disappointment stemmed from the fact that Juli has a pretty kickass taste in music, and my views on things tend to coincide with hers more often than not. But like I said, I’ll end up picking up the CD sooner or later and checking it out for myself.

  11. WAYNOE
    July 15, 2010 at 9:40 am

    Kelly,

    I have been asked multiple times about the running totals so I feel I am providing a great service. No sham on my end. I am comfortable in my own skin. By the way, latest count is 41 DOWN and 36 UP. I knew you would want to know but be too ashamed to ask.

    Sam G.,

    You have given the best advice per your comment. Picking up the CD and checking it out for yourself is EXACTLY what one should do.

  12. Thomas
    July 15, 2010 at 11:03 am

    …waynoe, you are to this blog what statistics are to baseball.

  13. WAYNOE
    July 15, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Uhhhh. Thanks I think. Actually, the stats are more interesting than the game itself.

  14. Leeann Ward
    July 15, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Wayno,
    For the record, though I figured it was clear, I (for one) only ask about your stats to be sardonic. Otherwise, I could care less about them. I think it’s ridiculous and I’m guessing that’s, at least, why others may ask too.

  15. Leeann Ward
    July 15, 2010 at 11:54 am

    You might notice that I only ask you on positive reviews, since you like to complain about how the majority are negative.

  16. Mary
    July 15, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    I like “Alone in NY.”
    Would anyone please spell out the lyrics for me?
    I searched the internet but found nothing. I don’t quite get Wilson’s accent.

  17. WAYNOE
    July 15, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    LEEANN,

    Actually I haven’t noticed nor remember your posts.

  18. Jon
    July 16, 2010 at 12:47 am

    I expect Waynoe doesn’t really notice or remember anyone’s posts but his own.

  19. Ben Foster
    July 16, 2010 at 5:04 am

    I remember when I first started reading the 9513, I noted the abundance of negative reviews, and thought “Wow, the 9513 doesn’t like ANYTHING!”

    Then I started a review blog of my own, and I quickly realized that I don’t like anything either.

  20. WAYNOE
    July 16, 2010 at 8:01 am

    Jon,

    Mostly correct.

    Ben,

    Now that is funny.

  21. Drew
    August 23, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    Big fan of “Crop Comes In” and there’s a couple others I liked, but not loving it as a whole. 3 stars sounds right.

  22. Danimal
    October 18, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Weak review. Seriously, you think this album is a disappointment? You need to open your ears and give Wildwood another listen. This is some of their strongest work, hands down.

  23. Artsneets
    December 27, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    Just a note of disagreement on the comment about Blue Jay Way bringing the album down. The song could melt the ice from Kim Jong Il’s ice palace heart with its harmonies and penetrating lyrics. I suspect the reviewer did not listen closely enough to this gem.

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