Old Crow Medicine Show sound like a prewar string band filtered through Uncle Tupelo via Nirvana, and if they aren't bluegrass by any stretch of the imagination, they are every bit as energetic as a breakneck bluegrass combo. They also write most of their material, so while the group's songs sound old and traditional, they are more facsimiles than anything else, with an attention to narrative and lyrical detail that the old string band tunes, which were often made up of lightly linked floating verses drawn from old country blues and fiddle reels, seldom had. It isn't easy straddling two different centuries with one's sound and style, but Old Crow Medicine Show pull it off once again on their fourth studio album, the Ted Hutt-produced Carry Me Back, a ragged, breakneck romp that crackles with more energy than a thrash band on Red Bull. The old string bands were dance ensembles, but it's difficult to imagine dancers keeping up very long to tracks like "Carry Me Back to Virginia," "Mississippi Saturday Night," and "Sewanee Mountain Catfight," all of which are unhinged speed shuffles that roar by faster than a NASCAR race. "We Don't Grow Tobacco," which flies on its own fast rails, is a well-written saga that starts off detailing the woes of working in the tobacco fields and ends bemoaning the loss of jobs in those same fields in the 21st century, while "Ain't It Enough" is a beautiful, poetic, and melodic love song, so Old Crow Medicine Show aren't just about rapid-fire speed shuffles. Thought and care are in these songs, and they all fall together in a nice flow.
This isn't a one-trick pony band, and so far at least, Old Crow Medicine Show haven't painted themselves into a creative corner, managing somehow to sound both old and refreshingly new at once.
2012 album from the acclaimed string band.
Deluxe 180-gram LP includes digital download coupon.
Carry Me Back To Virginia
We Don't Grow Tobacco
Ain't It Enough
Mississippi Saturday Night
Half Mile Down
Sewanee Mountain Catfight
Ways Of Man