CHATHAM COUNTY LINE & MANDOLIN ORANGE – Tickets – Neighborhood Theatre – Charlotte, NC – October 10th, 2014


Neighborhood Theatre & MaxxMusic present


Josh Oliver

Fri 10/10

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

Neighborhood Theatre

This event is all ages

Our band is a lot like this place,” says Chatham County Line guitarist, lead singer and songwriter Dave Wilson. His eyes wander across the original hardwood lanes of the mid-century Raleigh bowling alley where he just finished rolling and drinking two rounds. Playing traditional string band instrumentation around a single microphone while clad in suits and ties visually projects a similar sepia-toned timelessness. “We create a product that you’re familiar with and you’ll enjoy going back to because you know what to expect. My dad ran a local hardware store years ago and I always felt like we shared that.”

Sure enough, like a small town store, there’s no dramatic tale or sexy hook to fuel the hype machine for Autumn, the seventh studio album since the Raleigh, NC-based Chatham County Line—Wilson, John Teer (mandolin/fiddle), Chandler Holt (banjo), and Greg Readling (bass, pedal steel, piano)—coalesced in the late 1990’s. Instead, the story behind the workmanlike group’s newest release—available September 2, 2016 via Yep Roc Records—is simple: A veteran ensemble at the top of its game sticking to its considerable strengths—poignant songwriting and inventive acoustic arrangements that draw upon a broad array of American roots influences, highlighted by trademark three- and four-part harmonies that shine throughout. But like the flat-screen televisions that now dot those bowling lanes, the quartet respects its history—from bluegrass inventor Bill Monroe to innovators like John Hartford—while remaining mindful of more modern influences, including its members’ backgrounds in rock bands.

“We were so obsessive about the way Tightrope sounded and making sure we got the songs right that this record was kind of a 180 from that,” Wilson explains, referring to the meticulous, multi-year process that birthed Autumn’s predecessor. “I think we were all exhausted from that process and wanted to just take the songs I had written and record them.” Thanks to the more casual approach, Autumn marries the comfortable maturity of 2014’s Tightrope with the welcome spontaneity of Chatham County Line’s earlier work. With some finishing touches done at Durham, NC’s Overdub Lane, two brief sessions—produced by Wilson at Kernersville, NC’s Fidelitorium—over the falls of 2014 and 2015 yielded not only the eleven tracks that comprise Autumn, but also a title for the album. Though the year between sessions wasn’t dedicated to consciously working on the record, it was perhaps the most productive period for the songs to take shape, according to Wilson. “It’s like leaving your desk and taking a walk: You have your best ideas when you’re not working on what you’re supposed to be working on.”

Nestled in the heart of the album, “Jackie Boy”—which Wilson describes as a “tribute to my old college friends and their dogs that have passed”—is a prime example of a song idea that was fully realized after a long gestation period. “That idea had been floating around in my head for a lot of years, but it was a really long, drawn-out song that no one would want to listen to,” he explains. “Eventually, I got fed up, came up with that guitar part and amalgamated the story.” Supported by a sparse, circular guitar pattern and accented by languid chops of Teer’s mandolin and mournful peals of Readling’s pedal steel, the wistful ballad’s tear-jerking lyrics are imminently relatable for anyone who has lost a beloved canine. Similarly, the rollicking album finale “Show Me The Door” was built around a piano part that had been rolling around in Readling’s head for the better part of a decade before the band jammed over it during Autumn’s first studio session. The album track mostly features the words Wilson devised during that initial run-through, positioning the tune as a put-up-or-shut-up send-off.

Elsewhere, Wilson demonstrates his gift for transforming seemingly mundane source material into compelling vignettes. Take “Rock in the River,” built from a metaphor Wilson pulled from a stranger’s conversation: “I overheard this guy talking about the mistakes he’d made with this girl that he thought was ‘the one,’ but he’d heard that her mother said to her ‘don’t worry, he’s just another rock in the river.’” Wilson showcases his storytelling skills by grafting that last line into a tale of lost love, while the band adds mandolin, banjo, and piano melodies all suggestive of cascading rivulets and winding waterways.

“Bon Ton Roulet,” on the other hand, was inspired by a bird. “I was listening to a woodpecker outside my basement and started singing this thing about a hangover—which sometimes occurs in my life—and the song just arrived,” Wilson remembers. Taps on an instrument body mimic the woodpecker “beating Morse code” which interrupts the narrator’s attempts to sleep off his sins of the night before, the slow-moving shuffle otherwise matching the lazy mood conjured by scenes from the morning after.

“Dave just keeps writing these great tunes and we keep trying to contribute what we can around that,” offers Holt humbly, considering Holt’s last-minute additions of the energetic instrumental “Bull City Strut” and the carefree, countrified anthem “If I Had My Way,” on which he sings lead. “That was an instrumental thing that we had been trying to make work for months, during which it went through all these different chord changes and bridges,” Holt says of the latter. “When we were in Kernersville, the lyrical idea kind of popped into my head, then Dave and I whittled it down, then I sang that first line and it all came from there.”

Putting family above the desires for fame and fortune, “If I Had My Way” suggests Holt’s cross-country move to join relatives in Colorado earlier this year. “It saved the band in some ways because it was getting so hard for me to be gone on tour,” Holt, who has a young son, explains. Although unusual for Chatham County Line—whose four members had lived within twenty miles of one another for their entire history as a band—it’s hardly unprecedented; Readling recalls scaling back on touring several years ago while building his house and preparing for the birth of his daughter. “We‘ve always given each other room when we need to do other things in life.”

Fortunately for fans, Chatham County Line has no plans to cut back on its live engagements, from the elegant European concert halls to the large American folk festivals at which the quartet has become a fixture. On stage, the musical relationships fostered by its consistent line-up are apparent, through an unspoken chemistry that allows the freedom for improvisational flashes that seem as polished as the rest of its set. Those moments keep performances fresh as the band’s best-known songs become concert staples, despite a deep catalog that features dozens of stellar tunes. “The fans drive the set list and the songs that we feel like we need to play every night,” Wilson states. “But this is never a position that I thought we would be in, that there would be all these songs we wrote that people listen to and make babies to, so then they bring the baby to the show to hear that particular song.”

“The conundrum of this new record is what old songs do we take out of the set and which new ones do we put in,” Holt muses, agreeing with Wilson that it’s a good problem to have for a group in its second decade of making music on its own terms, happy to avoid the path of acts that have morphed into business juggernauts. “Music today has almost become about everything else besides the music, but for the four of us, it’s very much the opposite of that. We get to do what we want to do. What else is there?”
Lean in to Mandolin Orange’s new album, “Blindfaller,” and it’s bound to happen. You’ll suddenly pick up on the power and devastation lurking in its quietude, the doom hiding beneath its unvarnished beauty. You’ll hear the way it magnifies the intimacy at the heart of the North Carolina duo’s music, as if they created their own musical language as they recorded it.

Due Sept. 30 on Yep Roc Records, “Blindfaller” builds on the acclaim of Mandolin Orange’s breakthrough debut on the label, 2013’s “This Side of Jordan,” and its follow-up, last year’s “Such Jubilee.”Since then they’ve steadily picked up speed and fans they’ve earned from long stretches on the road, including appearances at Newport Folk Festival, Austin City Limits Fest, and Telluride Bluegrass. It’s been an auspicious journey for a pair who casually met at a bluegrass jam session in 2009.

“When we finished ‘Such Jubilee,’ I started writing these songs with a different goal in mind. I thought about how I would write songs for somebody else to record,” Marlin explains. “I ended up with a bunch of songs like that, but we chose ones that I still felt personally connected to.”

Holed up at the Rubber Room studio in Chapel Hill, N.C., with a full band this time around, they laid down the tracks in a week between touring. They’ve always been keen on the notion that drawn-out recording sessions don’t necessarily yield better results. A good song, and just one good take, will always shine through any studio sorcery.

The passage of time, and the regret that often accompanies it, courses through these songs. “When did all the good times turn to hard lines on my face/ And lead me so far from my place right by your side?” Marlin ruminates on “My Blinded Heart.”

In fact, there’s heartache by the numbers on “Blindfaller.” If you didn’t know better, you’d swear “Picking Up Pieces” is a tearjerker George Jones or Willie Nelson sang back in the early 1970s. It’s a Mandolin Orange original, of course, and also a poignant reminder of the economy and grace with which Marlin imbues his songs – say what’s important and scrap the rest.

A country dirge with soulful washes of pedal steel and mandolin, “Wildfire” details the the lingering, present-day devastation of slavery and the Civil War, with Marlin’s voice locking into close harmonies with Frantz on the chorus. “Take This Heart of Gold” opens with perhaps the best classic-country line you’ll hear all year: “Take this heart of gold and melt it down.” (Marlin admits it was inspired by a Tom Waits lyric he misheard.)

But there’s also room for detours. Straight out of a honky tonk, “Hard Travelin’” lets the band shift into overdrive. A freewheeling ode to life on the road, it had been kicking around for a while but never fit on previous releases.

As for the album title, it’s meant to evoke a sense of wonder, of contemplation. A “faller” is someone who fells trees, and in this case that person is blind to his/her own actions and those of the world. The spectral cover photo, by Scott McCormick, is open to interpretation, too: Either those trees are engulfed in flames or sunlight is pouring through them. It’s up to you.

“We wanted different vibes and different intuitions on these tracks,” Marlin says, “and I feel like we really captured that.”
Josh Oliver
Josh Oliver
Josh Oliver has rightfully forged a well respected residency in the Americana genre. Beginning his career with the everybodyfields, who built a national following and logged thousands of highway miles, Oliver contributed guitars, keys, and vocals on a nightly basis in a humble and honest manner. As a sideman he has toured and/or recorded with artists such as Jill Andrews, Mandolin Orange, The Deep Dark Woods, Martha Scanlan, Sam Quinn, The Black Lillies and many others. In 2011, Josh released his debut album, "Troubles", then followed it with his 2014 release, "Part Of Life", teaming up with producer Andrew Marlin from Chapel Hill, North Carolina's own Mandolin Orange.
Venue Information:
Neighborhood Theatre
511 East 36th Street
Charlotte, NC, 28205

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