Sometimes you create an old-time string band with your friends.
Sometimes your old-time string band is awesome and fun and amazing and you put out sweet, sweet music like “I Hear Them All,” “James River Blues,” and “Caroline” while lying in relative obscurity; but it’s the trickle-down success of your Bob Dylan adaptation “Wagon Wheel,” the Frat Anthem of America, that launches you to stardom. Soon thereafter, you get the well-deserved opportunity to tour across the American southwest with almost-too-hot-to-be-cool-anymore bands Mumford & Sons and Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros.
Sometimes, in the midst of all this hoopla, you have to choose between branching out from your trademark gee-golly stompin’-clappin’ old-fashioned hootin’-and-a-hollerin’ southeastern bluegrass sound (that’s one option), and milking that cow for all she’s worth.
If Carry Me Back is any indication, Old Crow Medicine Show has chosen to remain decidedly on the cow milking path for the near future. And why not? The old-fashioned traditional bluegrass market is pretty wide open in 2012, and OCMS executes the throwback aesthetic eerily well. Between the carnival barker bravado of frontman Ketch Secor, the stand-up bass acrobatics, and the deftly handled fiddles/dobros/banjos aplenty, OCMS’s songs have the ability to transcend time and location.
Carry Me Back plays like a 12-song soundtrack to illegal moonshine runs through Tennessee in the 1940s. Which, incidentally, is kind of what what track 4, “Bootlegger’s Boy,” is about.
Other songs bear particular influences – title track “Carry Me Back” is very John Denver, and “Half Mile Down” could almost have been a Springsteen original transcribed to bluegrass.
Much like Zac Brown Band, OCMS is a band comfortably in its wheelhouse at this point in its career. Thankfully for us, its comfort zone is a delight to behold – and it’s not a facade or an act, either. The band’s genuineness shines through in some of the softer songs – “Levi,” a touching character bit about US Army 1st Lieutenant Leevi Barnard who died recently in Iraq, and the forlorn “Genevieve” especially come to mind.
Carry Me Back is another solid addition to the Old Crow discography. It’s good times and easy listening, and if it helps you get that illegal liquor across the state line with the law on your heels, then so be it.
(1) Carry Me Back
(4) Bootlegger’s Boy
(6) Mississippi Saturday Night