Old Crow Medicine Show bulk up their sound for an enjoyable and varied listen.
The original crowd-pleasing string band revival outfit, Old Crow Medicine Show might have new rivals in the shape of The Dead South but ‘Paint This Town’ allows them to stake a claim to still be the best. The album is chock-full of shit kicking roustabouts, some of which tackle troublesome contemporary issues, while the current line up of this ever shape shifting band (veterans, Ketch Secor, Morgan Jahnig and Cory Younts, are joined by Jerry Pentecost , Mike Harris and Mason Via) veer away at times from string band music to a rockier and gutsier sound. A fine example is ‘John Brown’s Dream’, a song about the execution of the 19th century abolitionist, which hammers along with a Tom Waits’ junkyard howl to it. While they never match this frenzy on the rest of the album, there are several equally powerful songs. Some are full-blown string band blasts as on the rousing ‘Bombs Away’ (a breakup song, not a war song) and ‘Painkiller’, a song about the opioid epidemic, along with the frenetic ‘Used To Be A Mountain’ which rails against the despoliation of the environment. Others are more measured. ‘New Mississippi Flag’ comes across as if Randy Newman was writing for The Band and ‘Gloryland’ could be considered as an epidemic inspired update of Dylan’s ‘Knocking On Heaven’s Door.’
The song, ‘Paint This Town’, is a grand memory of youthful abandon and ambition while ‘Honey Chile’ aches with bittersweet memories, the band here inhabiting a wonderful country rock domain – the Eagles gone Appalachian if you like. Recalling the band’s early busking days, ‘Hillbilly Boy’ closes the album with the band just, well, busking, on a good-natured string band come jug band like sing-along.
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