Old Crow Medicine Show celebrates their twentieth anniversary with the release of their truly excellent, well-rounded album Volunteer (Columbia Records Nashville). Two decades have only sharpened the band’s picking, which shines on the instrumental “Elzick’s Farewell.” This new-age old-time string band sounds every bit as vibrant as it ever has. With production duties handled by Dave Cobb and a guest stint by Joe Jackson Andrews on pedal steel, Old Crow Medicine Show continues to innovate, bringing electric guitar into their arrangements for the first time since their 2004 platinum hit, “Wagon Wheel.”
Old Crow Medicine Show’s songwriting continues to bridge the gap between the old and the new. They show their respect for the traditions of bluegrass music on slice-of-life in the South songs like “Dixie Avenue” and “Child of the Mississippi,” which could easily have been pulled from a folkways archive. “Look Away” conjures similar imagery and atmosphere but draws on the influence of the Rolling Stones.
Old Crow Medicine Show established a reputation for blending the form of traditional string music with contemporary concerns, and fans expecting that will not be disappointed. In “A World Away,” songwriter and frontman Ketch Secor tackles the refugee crisis. “Homecoming Party,” a lament for the conflict between the life of a touring musician and family, is blunt about truths of life, like sleeping pills. Critter Fuqua, Kevin Hayes, and Morgan Jahnig on upright bass, with Chance McCoy, and Cory Younts as well as guest Joe Jackson Andrews round out the band.
Part of bluegrass and string band has always been about getting together with friends to have a good time and play some tunes. Old Crow Medicine celebrates this part of the tradition, too, with the rousing, rollicking numbers “Flicker & Shine” and “Shout Mountain Music.”
Volunteer is available now in vinyl and CD, and is an absolute must have for all fans of string band and bluegrass. Get yours right here!