Roughly two and a half years after Chatham County Line first appeared at Raleigh’s Fletcher Opera Theater to record Sight & Sound—released last year as both a live DVD and CD/LP—the Triangle’s preeminent purveyors of Americana returned to the auditorium last Friday to a sold-out crowd. Much of the set was stacked with the quartet’s best-known newer cuts—singer/guitarist Dave Wilson joked that these are hits as far as the band’s mothers are concerned—to the delight of the appreciative audience. The band did reach back nearly a decade to “WSM (650),” from its self-titled debut. Wilson introduced the early tune by expressing regret that it wasn’t included on Sight.
Set against Chatham County Line’s more polished and adventurous later work, the relatively straightforward bluegrass of “WSM (650)” still holds up well—stellar songwriting and an enduring melody have a way of doing that—while also demonstrating just how far they’ve come in the nearly 10 years since that first record. The intricate arrangements are now as precise as the movements the four members have always made to jockey for position around its signature microphone stand, whether at Sadlack’s, The Pour House or Fletcher. The group’s recent outings at the latter have allowed today’s larger hometown fanbase to experience them in a more subdued, intimate listening room environment (spacious though Fletcher may be) that’s been missing since they outgrew Six String Café so long ago.
The pastoral charm and dulcet male-female harmonies of Virginia’s The Honey Dewdrops won over the audience early in the opening slot. Trading off guitar, mandolin and banjo on acoustic roots reminiscent of like-minded duos Mandolin Orange or Gillian Welch & Dave Rawlings, the Dewdrops proved they’re worthy of drawing crowds of their own the next time they’re back in town.