Over the past 55 years or so (yes I’m that old!), I’ve been to hundreds and hundreds of gigs from tiny venues in pubs to Wembley Stadium, with everything in between. I have very few artists on my bucket list but one of the bands I haven’t seen and would really like to, is Old Crow Medicine Show. Now this could be remedied in March as they’re playing at the O2 as part of the Country To Country festival but the thought of seeing a band that should be playing at somewhere like the late lamented Borderline or something similarly intimate, at the vast barn that is the O2 means I’m going to have to wait a little longer to see them performing live.
Formed in 1998, OCMC are basically an old-fashioned string band. The current line-up which is made up of seven musicians: Joe Andrews, Morgan Jahnig, Ketch Secor, Charlie Worsham, Cory Younts, Robert Price and Jerry Pentacost, features banjos, fiddles, upright bass and dobro amongst other instruments. Incredibly they were discovered in 2000 by Doc Watson busking outside a pharmacy in the town of Boone NC. In the following 20 years, they’ve gone from strength to strength releasing seven studio albums and four recorded live. They’ve won two Grammys including best Folk Album in 2015 for ‘Remedy’. They also won the 2013 Trailblazer Award from the Americana Music Association
I have no idea how and when I discovered the band – it could have been on the radio (Bob Harris or the Prairie Home Companion?) or someone told me about them but since then, I’ve looked forward to every new release.
I think what I really like about them is their energy allied to tremendous musical ability and superb vocals. This is exemplified by my favourite album of theirs, the live ‘50 Years Of Blond On Blonde’ where they recreate Dylan’s classic album in song order on its 50th anniversary but give it the OCMC trademark sound. Starting off with the joyful ‘Rainy Day Women #12 & 35’. They then proceed to sing ‘Pledging My Time’ at the speed of light, knocking something like two minutes of the Dylan version. Things calm down on ‘Visions Of Johanna’ highlighting how wonderful this somewhat neglected classic is. Like the following track, ‘One Of Must Know (Sooner Or Later)’, the fiddle playing is just sublime and gives both tracks a deep, melancholic feel – the pizzicato strings on the later track brings a tear to the eye. If you’re not hooked by these first four tracks, then maybe this isn’t the album for you.
Rather than do a complete album review – this is an article about the band after all – the highlights from the other tracks are the intense ‘Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again’, the haunting ‘Just Like A Woman’ with some beautiful steel guitar and the album’s closing epic ‘Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands’. Live albums don’t always work – this one certainly does.
Listening to this album and seeing some of their videos on-line, makes me yearn to see the band live but not nearly enough to make me go to the O2! I see they’re playing at the aptly named The Shed in Maryville TN on my wedding anniversary – maybe I can convince my wife that a trip to Tennessee is the only way to celebrate this year!