OLD CROW MEDICINE SHOW – CARRY ME BACK
2012 – ATO/Maple Music Recordings
Reviewed by Paul Hinkley Smith
“Old Crow Medicine Show marry old-time string music and punk swagger.” So said none other than Rolling Stone Magazine. It is true, they do. Perhaps though as with other bands who could be described in similar terms, (Dirt Daubers, Pine Hill Haints and even Chatham County Line to a lesser extent) that raw energy that you get from a live show doesn’t always carry over or transcend to a studio album. The skill, tight togetherness and sometimes seemingly random swapping of instruments that blows you away at a live show somehow sometimes doesn’t grab you in quite the same way when you are listening to a CD.
That is not to say that I haven’t enjoyed their albums down the years. Their eponymously
titled breakthrough album from 2004 had me hooked and I pretty much played it to death. With this their 7th album – the last being 2008’sTennessee Pusher produced by legendary producer Don Was, (He has so many credits in a long and illustrious career I could fill up all the space for my review just
talking about them. Check his Wikipedia page if you don’t believe me. I do not use the word legend lightly) all the band’s well known strengths are on display. Founding member Chris 'Critter' Fuqua re-joined the group early in 2012 but another founder, guitar player Willie Watson left at around the same time. The band actually announced a hiatus at the end of last year but luckily that didn’t
The album kicks off with Carry Me Back to Virginia - a rollicking dance tune that sounds as though it has come straight from Appalachia but retained the influences of its Celtic ancestry. Old Crow Medicine Show have always had a happy and uncanny knack of making their self-penned songs
sound like old standards pulled straight from the vaults of old time traditional tunes. Track two We Don’t Grow Tobacco showcases another of the band’s trademark talents, the close harmonies that
combine seemingly so effortlessly to create a whole that is indeed greater than the sum of its parts. Another stand out track is Ain’t It Enough which has leanings towards an old country waltz and again
showcases the band’s harmonies, pitched just right so there is something magical in the spaces between the voices. Mississippi Saturday Night could only really be described as a tear-up. Echoes of the great musical traditions that this band are part of are all over it and all through it. The blistering tempo makes an instant impression on the ears at first listen. You can imagine feet stomping on somebody’s back porch somewhere. Steppin’ Out plants the band firmly in old time jug band territory. It almost needs a crackle added to it so it sounds like it is straight off an old 78 as does Country Gal. The last track Ways Of Man brings early Willie Nelson to mind. I think it might well be
The album over all offers few surprises but I would not expect to. It is an Old Crow Medicine Crow album and you know what you are going to get. Slow songs, quicker ones and some
really, really fast ones. If you like the others then you will like this one.