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Published: 2005/03/05
by Katie Mavrich

Route 23 – Chatham County Line

Yep Roc Records 2087

One of the most interesting things about music is an artist's ability to pull a sound from influential musical legends and make it his own while paying homage to said legends at the same time. Bluegrass quartet Chatham County Line takes its inspiration from greats such as Bill Monroe, Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs, Bob Dylan, and others. However, rather than infusing their sounds with modern touches, Chatham County Line succeeded in composing your grandfather's country album, right down to the lyrics.

Route 23 is the group’s latest endeavor, and it will surely make Pops reminisce of the days of using freight railroad to get to the other side of the country quickly and cheaply ("Louisiana Freight Train") and conjure up thoughts of the Dust Bowl ("Nowhere to Sleep"), the feel-good folk ballad that opens the album. You can tell that even though they are all fairly young, the talented musicians seem to have dedicated a large part of their lives to learning their trade, each picking up multiple instruments. From the banjos and fiddles to the harmonica and mandolin, Chatham County Line pens its tunes to give each musical element equal opportunity to be heard, thanks to the carefully thought out harmonies.

So how is it that Chatham County Line made an album that better suits the older generation than the younger one? Perhaps they are good at thinking outside the box? Perhaps their souls are a little older than their bodies? Perhaps they see the past as a simpler time and are trying to hold onto it? They have been called "modern traditionalists," but I have to disagree with that description. Route 23 is flat out traditional, there’s nothing really modern about it. Is this a bad thing? Absolutely not. Even the slower and darker "Saro Jane" still manages sound like something that would be sung to pass the time at a campfire.

Thanks to more popular contemporaries such as the Yonder Mountain String Band, the road has been paved for lesser-known and younger acts like Chatham County Line. Fans of bluegrass will delight in the stripped down sound, and fans of classic country will be pleased as well.

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