June 28, 2018
Old Crow Medicine Show – Volunteer
For a band that has clocked up 20 years together then it’s surprising that Volunteer is their 6th studio album. However, when they did get to the famous RCA Studio A in Nashville it was also their good fortune to have the much sought after Country/Americana alchemist David Cobb as the producer. It would be unfair to suggest that OCMS wouldn’t have dished up this fine album with a lesser sorcerer on the dials.
Grammys have come their way and despite being important Americana stalwarts then they still have great affection for their street corner roots, where legend has it, Doc Watson found them and gave them their first major billing at MerleFest. In fact paying their dues the hard way, building up a US nationwide following, still remaining on the road and never getting remotely drawn into the commercial Nashville scene keeps their feet on the ground. To keep a loyal fan base you have to keep producing the goods and Volunteeris a varied, well played, uplifting and seasoned piece of work.
“Flicker & Shine” is an apt summary of their first couple of decades – “Well I’ve been all around this world, Young and running wild, I’ve played with the fire that burns, And I’ll live on the highway until I die”. A joyous and energetic bluegrass folk riot that states their creed and modus operandi. With feathers truly ruffled the band changes gear with a Country work out on“A World Away”. Ketch Secor’s harmonica drives this sweet tune.
“Look Away” puts fiddle to the fore over Cory Younts piano chords. A hook laden, wistful ballad that could be off any album by The Band tells the tale of seeking a simpler way of life back in the South from an earlier lifetime. “Old Hickory” has violins in tandem as the story of Virgil Lee with his fiddle and flat top guitar. We behold the tragic tale of his talent being enjoyed but passing and his legacy being “Like a old hickory, Shadin’ the porch of a house that’s been torn down”.
“Homecoming Party” slips into pure (and sublime) Glen Campbell as the weary musician tells of his early morning return to his family after an arduous tour. He anticipates the morning with the expectant children, the household chores he needs to resume and the affection of his much missed wife. The reality collides with the glamour of the life of a travelling entertainer. In the same style we finish with “Whirlwind”. Critter Fuqua’s slide guitar provides easy rhythm on this parting and melodic love song.
OCMS effortlessly slip between various genres and styles. For those who’ve enjoyed them live there will be some tracks you’ll be cranking up and others where you’ll admire the peerless musicianship and song writing. OCMS are still at the top of their game and this is one for my end of year list. Terrific.