Old Crow Medicine Show’s New Remedy

Old Crow Medicine Show

Old Crow Medicine Show’s New Remedy

By Dixon Milner

After almost fourteen years in Nashville, Tennessee, Old Crow Medicine Show has finally come out with a record firmly rooted in their Mid-South home. While previous albums like Tennessee Pusher and songs like “Wagon Wheel” mention the Music City, OCMS’s new album Remedy actually reflects living in Nashville. As contemporary country music drifts ever further from roots country, Americana, folk, string band or bluegrass styles, it is important that a well known group such as Old Crow defy the majority while creating music even casual fans can find palatable.

If Remedy was a concert setlist or a mixtape from High Fidelity, the opening “Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer,” a reworking of a traditional prison song, would be described as an “interesting” choice to open the album. The beat is thick and measured and would have the audience primed and ready to go for the rest of the show but not hopping on their feet with excitement. The pace of the album picks up significantly on track two: “8 Dogs 8 Banjos.” Featuring call and response lyrics and a fast pace, the simple and upbeat song will be a good live show staple and house party mix addition.

Co-written with Bob Dylan, “Sweet Amarillo” features drums and accordion; two things not common in OCMS songs. A love song set in Amarillo and the surrounding Llano Estacado; it has a wide open feeling that fits the land it describes. The story of the song is similar to the massive hit “Wagon Wheel,” Dylan sent the band a 20-second snippet of the original version as a gift (produced around the same time he did “Wagon Wheel” originally) and the band crafted it into the first single for the album. It’s a catchy song that you will find yourself humming long after you listen.

A slow and conversational song about the aftermath of a friend’s death, “Dearly Departed Friend,” is a change of pace for an Old Crow song. It is one of their only songs that mentions anything related to the modern world. While one can imagine most of their songs taking place in the present, usually the most technologically advanced references have to do with cars or trains and have more of a turn of the century feel. This song mentions television, college football, the mall and other indicators that the band actually knows they are living in 2014, not 1914.

Midway through, the album takes on a quicker pace starting with “Brave Boys” that is more in line with their live shows than previous albums. The lyrics are a little hard to decipher, if not generic, but they are fun and fit the speed of the song. The fiddle is featured prominently and overall the song is a welcome addition.

“Doc’s Day” is an ode to Doc Watson and other Americana icons that inspired Old Crow (along with helping them get their big break). Harkening back to their beginning as buskers on the street in North Carolina, this song sounds like a cut off an earlier album, especially with the harmonica front and center and the rolling bass and washboard rhythm section.

While mentioning Nashville in previous songs, “O Cumberland River” is truly their first ode to their adopted home. The rhythm certainly has the feeling of a river song, a type of song that they have dabbled with before, especially in live shows, but have not recorded many of yet. In interviews and live shows, lead man Ketch Secor mentions his love for the land and rivers of each area of America and this song is a fitting ode to the main river running through downtown Nashville. It displays that they have adapted to their new home and have set down roots and established an identity.

A song about moving East to Nashville (an odd directional choice given that pioneers traditionally move West in American lore and Old Crow is from East of Tennessee), “Tennessee Bound” is probably the catchiest song on Remedy. The new take on an old bluegrass song features infectious lyrics and tight fiddle lines and banjo picking.

The final quarter of the album features three divergent tunes. The sinister fiddle line and dark imagery on “Shit Creek” reminds one of groups like Nickel Creek or Trampled by Turtles more than it does of anything Old Crow has produced. “Sweet Home” is a very traditionally organized string band tune that sounds like a cleaner and more polished early OCMS song. The song is a happy tune about death that is playful despite its subject. Finally, the album ends with a metaphorical song about judgment called “The Warden.” It is fitting that an album that begins with a song set in a conjugal visit ends with a tune questioning and condemning the soul of the head of the prison. The instrumentation is slow and beautiful and ends the album on a contemplative note.

This effort sounds slightly influenced by their contemporaries Turnpike Troubadours (if not in a slightly different genre), but still maintains their core sound and identity. Remedy does not stray too far from previous albums like Carry Me Back, O.C.M.S. and Big Iron World. That is not a bad thing as those were all good albums and a new one functions to increase the public’s awareness of bands like Old Crow Medicine Show. In that vein of public service, they may be rightly suggesting this album is an antidote to the vapid offerings that pass for country music in 2014.

Remedy is available for purchase at iTunes, Amazon, and on the band’s website.

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