It's been four years since the last Old Crow Medicine Show album Tennessee Pusher, and like most I've been hoping that their hiatus would be short lived. I saw them live on their last tour here about two or three years ago and they were amazing, playing for over three hours and leaving the crowd dripping with sweat and thirsting for more good time music. Their last studio album was a considerable departure from their traditional bluegrass old time sound but they did so with poise and showed a considerable development in their songwriting. On their new album the band retrace their roots and produce an album that is faithful to their old time sound, bluegrass picking, tight harmonies all wrapped in a loose good time Saturday night feeling. Even though the songs have a more relaxed feel to them OCMS have lost none of their insightful songwriting, they have that ability to capture the strength and spirit of the south but also the heartbreaking decline. Because it's their territory each song is infused with a sense of sadness but gritty reality, but when it comes to celebrating the old style barn stomping good time feeling of the south the OCMS have no trouble creating a vibrant sound.
Carry Me To Virginia shares a similar theme to the classic The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, the story of a young man filled with pride, going into battle in 1861 to win one for Virginia. All encounters are the horrors of war, his southern brothers buried in the fields in Alabama and along the Tenneesee line.
Oh I come from the valley, I'm a rebel boy
Born on the banks of the Shenandoah, in 61 I went to the war,
To win one for Virginia
Yeah my brother went first, then they called me too,
I was a green as clover in the morning dew.
We Grow Tobacco with that familiar Ketch Secor fiddle sound is a lament at the death of the farming of tobacco, but it's also a commentary on how many of the young people in these small southern towns are leaving for better futures in larger cities. I've always loved that twang vocal style of Willie Watson and then the vocals of Ketch Secor fit in beautifully below. Levi is the story of a typical strong southern boy baptised on the banks of the New River only to find death in the deserts of Afghanistan, Ketch Secor provides that mournful fiddle with some strong harmonies. The great strength of OCMS is the fact that they have multiple songwriters which adds to the depth of each album. Ain't It Enough find Ketch in Bob Dylan mode with a more sedate and acoustic song that is more reflective questioning the barriers between people and the need for compassion.
Mississippi Saturday Night is full blast Saturday night fun, hailing the great Magnolia State the home of juke joints, the cross roads in Clarksdale and the mighty Ole Miss.
Vicksburg, Natchez down to Crescent City, the Gulf Coast blues,
Sure is a pity, don't make a lot of money baby that's alright,
Cause we make a lot of loving on a Mississippi Saturday night.
The great Gil Landry is out front for Genevieve with a great mix of cajun and South Louisiana sounds mixing with the fiddle of Ketch and those close harmonies, a heart wrenching story of lost love. Kevin Hayes resumes his good ole boy role with Country Gal which is similar to his song Humdinger from Tennessee Pusher. It fits the album beautifully Hayes sings of rollin around in the hay in the barn on a Saturday night whilst the radio plays the Grand Ole Opry. Since the release of the album Willie Watson has left the band and original member Critter Fuqua is back, Willie is a big loss not just his vocals and guitar playing but he had a strong songwriting partnership with Ketch Secor.