Fine Tuning: Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Tennessee Pusher”
Filed under: Fine Tuning | Posted by: jody
Old Crow Medicine Show has released their first album since relocating to Nashville, Tennessee Pusher (out now on Nettwerk Records). I had the chance to catch them live last Friday with the (very good) Carolina Chocolate Drops at the historic Ryman Auditorium. The tone and feel of their music certainly has developed in a manner that will surprise you, especially if you’ve previously dismissed them as an ol’ timey bluegrass gimmick.
Quick Disclaimer: I am an Old Crow apologist. I grew up listening to bluegrass music, and I could care less if OCMS plays anything that approximates alt-country or whether all string bands are incredibly geeky. To that wit, OCMS took a great step forward to prevent becoming a one-trick pony like, say, the good but otherwise forgettable rock-as-bluegrass Hayseed Dixie. Sure, we may not have any foot-stompers here about blow, but what we do have is a complete album searching for the spirit of the forgotten people in the Tennessee Valley; music about the Wal-Mart set, truck stop hookers, assassination, and methamphetamine. This album does not pander much to past popular fan favorites, but instead pulls the OCMS sound from the past into something much more relevant and real. Ketch Secor’s writing is really superb, especially if you consider it from the angle of a performer like Ryan Adams. I don’t want to stir the pot too much here, but Secor is building one hell of a case as the superior writer of that comparison. Consider Secor’s lyrics from “Highway Halo”: “Shaky Face/ Lily Kimball/ Patron Saint/ Traveling minstrel/ Let her dusty wings unfold/ Forgive her bad luck soul/ Put her in a purple robe/ And a highway halo”
I should mention that this album was produced by the legendary Don Was, and he really does come through with a sound that is more developed than previous records but still far from over-produced. It works, and this album really gains from Don knowing when to lay off the gas. If you are going to try a few tracks, check out “Caroline”, “Next Go ‘Round” and “Highway Halo”. I see Tennessee Pusher as a great step forward in sound and style for Old Crow Medicine Show; they’ve consistently evolved in a style contrary to my expectations, while mostly exceeding them as well. -Dave Harmon
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