The thing that Country music – particularly good country music – does well is evoke an image of another world. A world of vast American plains, roaming cattle, starry nights and tight-knit community and Old Crow Medicine Show have been painting these pictures for so long that they’ve started producing images within their songs so vivid that it makes you want to change all immediate plans, buy a pair of dungarees and live like Huckleberry Finn.
The release of Volunteer coincides with the band’s 20th anniversary and it’s obvious early on that the band are in the mood for a party with songs like ‘Elzich’s Farewell’, ‘Dixie Avenue’, ‘Shout Mountion Music’ and opener ‘Ficher & Shine’ sounding like they were recorded at a Saturday night hoedown along with clapping, foot stomping and cheers from a nearby audience of revellers. You can almost hear boot heels knocking against straw-covered wooden floors.
But intertwined with the energetic, dancing songs are moments of reflection and emotion, aimed often at a loved one – beautifully done in the final song ‘Whirlwind’ – or, particularly in ‘Look Away’, the music explores the geography and the landscape of the country itself giving the album a lovely balance and grounding.
It’s clear the band love their surroundings and draw inspiration from it and when the album moves into storytelling territory in the barefoot, steamboat upbringing of ‘Child of The Mississippi’ or the deal-with-the-devil story of ‘Old Hickory’ proves this is a good band doing good things.
The six-piece band produce a full sound of harmonised vocals, guitar, banjo, harmonica, double bass, drums, occasional slide guitar and a frantic violin which, like it or not, will make you move. Make no mistake this is an accomplished album of strong song writing and musicianship just beware of that temptation to buy some dungarees and throw it all into those muddy waters…