Old Crown Medicine show are known for their amazing and energetic live shows and a fantastic folk repertoire throughout their discography. This greatest hits package comes exclusively from their three albums released with Nettwerk, including O.C.M.S in 2004, Big Iron World in 2006 and Tennessee Pusher in 2008. “Best Of” kicks off with Wagon Wheel their original song made a mega-hit by Darius Rucker covering it, selling it as a multi-platinum single. Old Crow Medicine Show’s version is much more palatable, with real grounding in roots, dominated by fiddle, banjo and folk harmonies. Indeed, Old Crow don’t escape string-dominated roots music for any of the record, and indeed for any of their discography.
Personal highlights include Tell It To Me, CC Rider and My Good Gal, but the truly special songs include Big Time In The Jungle, telling the story of a young man drafted into the Vietnam war, changing his life and ‘’turning that smile upside down’’. It sings much like a protest song, and much like some of the more famous protest songs through time, it doesn’t play like the sad downbeat song it could, rather it is jaunty, with a sprightly fiddle and banjo.
Similarly Take ‘em Away is a beautiful song revolving about escaping entrapment and going home. This is the most sedate song on the record and as the least amount of fiddle, being instead built around banjo and acoustic guitar. The plodding rhythm is representative of the subject matter and the gentle harmonies add elegance and beauty to the sad tale being told.
There are also two brand-new songs included on this greatest hits record. Black-Haired Quebecoise is an upbeat tale about an encounter with a woman in French-Canada. The lyrics flow wonderfully, including the occasional outbreak into French and the use of different voices to tell the tale, as good folk music is adept at doing. This is both classic Old Crown Medicine Show and also fresh in the way they tell the tale, as a storyteller would.
Heart Up In The Sky is more of a traditional folk song, with great use of close harmonies and plenty of fiddle and banjo. This is less of a story and more allegory of giving your love to another and the vulnerability that brings.
Whilst existing fans of Old Crow Medicine Show won’t have much use to listen to this record, it is a well-compiled greatest hits compilation, and so if you want to taste of what the band are about, you can rest assured that this is a worthy collection. It doesn’t cover some of my favourite records from them, such as their most recent Remedy but nonetheless covers them faithfully.