Chatham County Line

Chatham County Line

The Easy Leaves

Tuesday, October 18th

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

$24 Advance/$26 Door

Chatham County Line
Chatham County Line
On a recent summer evening in downtown Raleigh, NC, Chatham County Line set up shop at a stately theater filled with hundreds of their most devoted fans and captured for the ages what they do best: gathering around a single microphone to play and sing their own songs.

The result, the two-disc audio and video collection Sight & Sound, is an essential document of one of the finest acoustic ensembles North Carolina has ever produced. In a state rich with bluegrass, folk and country legends, this quartet stands out for its left-of-center approach, bringing a rock 'n' roll sensibility to roots forms in a manner that appeals to traditional and contemporary camps alike.

"I really feel like you get the best out of something by holding it back a little bit," guitarist and primary singer Dave Wilson explains in an interview segment on the DVD. "We are just dying to be louder than all get-out and go crazy — but you don't plug any of us in, you put us behind a microphone. It keeps us under control so much that it's just kind of bristling."

You can feel the energy throughout Sight & Sound, which includes 20 tracks drawing from all five albums of the band's decade-long career. Nine songs appear on both the audio CD and the DVD; four are exclusive to the DVD, while the CD expands the collection with seven more tracks (including two taken from a Christmas-tour show in Atlanta).

The idea for Sight & Sound stemmed from the booking of a show shortly after the release of the band's fifth album, Wildwood, in the summer of 2010. Chatham County Line had arranged an August 10 date at the Fletcher Opera Theater, "and we realized what a sit-down, comfortable, well-staged place it was to have a performance," Wilson recalled. "We figured no matter what that we'd get some cameras in there to tape it." From there, Yep Roc took the ball and ran with it, setting the wheels in motion to have the show professionally filmed and recorded.

"It was something the fans have always asked for," Wilson continued. "A lot of people think we sound better live and in-person than we do on record. They'll say, 'We wish your records sounded like you do live!' And there was a thought of this kind of being a loose 'Greatest Hits,' if you will, so it has songs from each record gathered all in one place."

Thus they go all the way back to the beginning — "Closing Town," the leadoff track on the very first Chatham County Line record in 2003 — as well as revisiting three songs each from 2005's Route 23 and 2006's Speed of the Whippoorwill. There's a bit more focus on the band's two most recent albums, 2008's IV and 2010's Wildwood, perhaps a reflection of how much the band has come into its own in the past few years.

Indeed, the Wildwood track "Alone In New York," which leads off the CD, features perhaps Wilson's finest vocal performance to date; the soaring harmonies of mandolinist/fiddler John Teer at the song's peak help the live version reach ever higher flights. And that album's closing number, "End of the Line," serves as a fitting finale for the DVD, bridging the concert's encore between a series of enlightening ruminations by the band members. Bassist Greg Readling reflects with wonder upon magical moments onstage "where I feel like all cylinders are firing, and everybody had created a part that was individual and unique, and worked really great with
everybody else's part."

And if they look good doing it, well, that's all part of the plan, too. Asked if the concert film was really just an excuse for the band to buy new suits, Wilson demurs: "I plead the fifth." On camera, though, banjo player Chandler Holt owns up to the sartorial philosophy of these sharp dressed men, and how it pertains to their musical ambition: "There's just something striking about seeing four guys in suits gathered around one microphone. It definitely makes a statement of, in theory, this should sound good."

In theory, and in practice, as Sight & Sound attests.
The Easy Leaves
The Easy Leaves
Old Standards, New Directions is a mighty fine slogan for the The Easy Leaves - Or New American Music from the Western Edge. Full-Spectrum Americana also does the trick. And as elated as they certainly would be by these turns of a carnival barker, this fine tuned yet loose, crafty yet tender, down-home racket of The Easy Leaves travels endless country miles past tweety length, out catching any catch phrase. So if you're interested in getting properly acquainted with The Easy Leaves, a good-listen to the music itself is the only way.

Their new record, American Times (Omega Records), spans the breadth of American roots music from grassland stomps, minor swings and Honky Tonk grinds, to personal spirituals, and Rhythm and Blues. One example of the latter mentioned influence, the track Fool on a String, holds its own with ease, a worthy reciprocal to The Rolling Stones' Under My Thumb.

The album also has an anthem, Keep It Country. The cruising dreamscape Honky Tonk Magic flirts with Doo-Wop melody and speaks to a purer time, and the empyrean feeling of a love lost. The (almost) title track, The American, extra handsome and honest, is about acceptance of self, and of something bigger. Heathen is about a relationship with organized religion, and it "goes there" with matchless finesse. And if this record were a religion the central belief might just be that the spirit of a rowdy drunken celebration and that of an old-time revival salvation are not separate. But , American Times as religion also wouldn't try and force you to believe anything (maybe everything though? Maybe too it'd pull a shiny nickel from your ear, unscrew the top to the salt shaker, and help Grandma cross the street).

The Easy Leaves, songwriters Kevin Carducci and Sage Fifield, formed north of the Golden Gate in 2008 immersed in a diverse set of flailing rockers, gospel skeptics, and country outlaws. Their initial intent was to establish an old-time string band. However, this did not happen (at all). In love with just too many different musics, artists as disparate as Bob Wills and Smokey Robinson slinking into their songwriting, Kevin and Sage gave up their banjo habits cold-turkey. The Easy Leaves'sound was born- A modern acoustic sound, its roots kept close to the chest while tirelessly sprawling out in new directions that stretch the borders of the Americana genre in exciting ways.

"Our sound is a personal distillation of American music, based on the styles we like and all the songs and sounds we've been saturated with." The finest filters on this still are songs written with painstaking attention to detail and dynamic intricate vocal harmonies. They're melodic, lyric-driven (catchy-as-all-hell) compositions pinned with the syncopated rhythm of two acoustic instruments, guitar and upright bass. A trap kit, and pedal steel – The whipped cream and cherry.

Live, The Easy Leaves beguile any kind of audience.

Now here, with the explanation wrapped up, you might have concluded, might say, These The Easy Leaves are bringing in from most any musical column – We've heard of these turn left then right types. You're probably correct. From that you might then conclude, might say, A record that does that must not be focused – Why these The Easy Leaves can't keep their hands out of the Johnson's trick or treat candy. But then see, with all due respect, you are not correct. To the contrary it doesn't get more honed-in than The Easy Leaves, than American Times. And to know this for sure, know what's being talked about, give that good-listen a go.