Arriving onto The Crawdaddy stage, decorated with the flag of North Carolina, Chatham County Line leader Dave Wilson greets the enthusiastic audience with a cheery "Hello Dublin". They then launch into a selection of songs from their latest album Wildwood. These include Saturdays & Sundays, Alone In New York and the title track. The show also closed with two further tracks from the album Blue Jay Way and End Of The Line. Between those bookends they played what Wilson termed the "hits". Allowing the audience to call out selections which resulted in such well loved songs as Speed Of The Whippoorwill, Route 23, (which Wilson described as an anti-highway song while he extolled the positive state of the highways of Ireland which had enabled a speedy trip between Belfast and Kilkenny) Birmingham Jail and a song about falling in love with a woman on a train journey The Carolinian - "not his wife's favourite song" he quipped. He talked about the fact that in a lot of cases touring meant they went to a lot of places but rarely got to have a chance to look around, but they had had a short time to walk around Dublin before the show.
The other CCL members John Teer, Chandler Holt and Greg Readling have a natural ease and ability and add comments to each other and the audience throughout the set which again highlighted that even though the wear suits onstage in homage to the bluegrass tradition that inspired them and play, between them, guitar, fiddle (Wilson remarking that Teer was nervous of playing that instrument in a country famous for its fiddlers), banjo, mandolin and double bass they are coming at the music in a different way. This is mainly down to their original songs which are broader than the repertoire of many bluegrass bands. These songs could easily be delivered in a rock band format.
Their musical ability is never in question, though they never display the look-at-me-I'm- wonderful prwess of some bluegrassers I've seen. Rather it is a band where the some of the whole is greater than the individual elements. Which is what a band should be. But, perhaps, the most striking thing is the balance and harmony of the vocals. Wilson is lead singer with his distinctive and emotive voice. He's joined on most songs by John Teer with Holt and Readling all added their voices to powerful effect. Using the central microphone situation of traditional bluegrass the weave in and out of position to allow one instrument or another to take lead focus which makes for an interesting and visual focus. Holt takes over the guitar and sings lead vocal on his song Whipping Boy. The also play a couple of instrumental which highlight their playing skills and interaction.
The audience loved them, but remained respectful with a distinct lack of overt rowdiness, other than calling out for favourite songs which caused Wilson to comment that "you're so well behaved, you'll give Belfast a bad name". But given that both sides of the stage went home satisfied who we can only hope this excellent live band will return again in the non-too distant future.