The Old Crow Medicine Show
has been ripping up the modern roots music scene ever since they popped onto it back in 1998, with their cassette debut. Known best for taking a traditional approach to American folk music and stringband-style music, and for being the band chiefly responsible for busker favorite "Wagon Wheel," OCMS has charted a career at delivering raw, spirited acoustic music. On their latest album, Carry Me Back
(ATO, 2012), the band delivers more of the same fabulous craftsmanship.
Nothing Nostalgic About It
One of the best things about Old Crow Medicine Show is that they don't seem to be digging up the deep tradition of country stringband music out of any desire to be nostalgic. These are the kinds of songs which legitimately pour out of the region from whence they came, and they seem to pour out of the mouths of these men as naturally. "We Don't Grow Tobacco" (purchase/download
), as a matter of fact, is a song which seems to point exactly to the fact that things aren't like they used to be. Granted, it's a song about all the things which have kept folk music alive - falling on hard times, worrying, hard work, and moving on - but in this case it's lamenting the loss of a farming industry and culture which once carried so many folks in the south.
Similarly "Bootlegger's Boy" (purchase/download) tugs on that same lamentation for some of the ways the south has moved on. Its fiddle solos are fast, like the bootlegger cars which once sped through the back country roads, even as the lyrics sings ruminate on the necessary separation between each generation.
For the most part, Carry Me Back
is a rollicking good time, punctuated by hard-blown harmonicas and sawed-off fiddles. The vocals are as articulate and creative as they are often lightning-fast (see "Sewanee Mountain Catfight
"). It's a perfect summertime album - ideal for road-tripping and late-night parties. As usual, OCMS wastes no space with unnecessary instrumentation, solos, or arrangements. The songs are just as sparse as necessary, and the band nails them hard.
That said, like most good things, it's not a perfect album. "Genevieve" and "Ain't It Enough" have an entirely different energy from the rest of the album - not just because they're slower and more contemplative, but because of the overall vibe of the songs. They seem to go together, granted, but also seem out of place in the midst of the rest of the album. Perhaps a break in the continuity is what the band was after, but it feels jarring when listening to the whole disc straight through. Nonetheless, fans seeking something a little more topical or contemplative from this group will be pleased.
It had been four years since the Old Crow Medicine Show released their last album Tennessee Pusher. After announcing a full-band hiatus in 2011, and announcing the return of original founding member Critter Fuqua, they delivered this rumpus of an album, which will no doubt delight fans and critics alike. Eight albums into their career, it's clear that Old Crow Medicine Show has proven a massive influence on the Generation Y folk music scene. Their finest asset is that the band has mastered tradition without wallowing in the confusing realm of gimmicky nostalgia. No doubt Carry Me Home will please long-time fans and newcomers alike. Also, when all is said and done, it's likely to be considered one of the finest folk music recordings of 2012.