Hatchy goes back to his roots
Publisher: Shock Records
Wed, 5 July 2006
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Picture an old wooden box car trundling down a lonely stretch of track in America circa 1920's. The 20th century is just emerging from its youth. A bitter, bloody European war has just been fought and a new dawn cautiously greets the prohibition era. The big cities are discovering jazz and swing music is the sound of the hour, but down in the deep-south bluegrass is still the only music on the radio. Welcome to the music of Old Crow Medicine Show.
I found the album cover to be a bit misleading at first, greeted by 5 young men, some in shades, all looking impossibly cool (one is wearing a Guns and Roses t-shirt, is that cool again?). You may be lead to believe that this is another album full of punk/ska music, but then you notice two guys are holding banjos. From here things can only be presumed to get a bit interesting. And interesting they do. OCMS clearly take what they do very seriously, something that becomes evident with just the first listen to the album. Anyone familiar with Hank Williams, Woody Guthrie or perhaps early Bob Dylan will probably like a lot of what is on here as they keep it true to the style of bluegrass but give it a more modern feel through their lyrics. Admittedly Bob Dylan was never really a bluegrass musician however his early folk music and singing style can be heard a lot through this album. Some people may attribute much of the music to a bunch of guys getting drunk and singing around a campfire. That's not always a bad thing especially if they can sing, and play instruments well, which OCMS can definitely do.
The first track is about cocaine, the second about the Vietnam war, the third about a man in poverty. As you can discern there is a bit of an eclectic mix with regards to the songs on this album. They never stray too much from the themes that appeal to lovers of this music so traditionalists won't be disappointed. Original? Probably not, but any fan of this music isn't really expecting it to deviate too much from the plan. One thing that does give it a bit of cred is that some of the instruments the boys play date back to the 1920's. They are a hard working band, living many parts of their early careers out of cars, or shacked up together in one house with very little or no money. They can claim more than just a passing association to living a down and out lifestyle which suits their music well.
For lovers of a great thigh slappin' hoe-down, "Hard To Tell" with its high paced fiddle and banjo is the pick of this release. The rest of the songs in the album take much of their inspiration from depression era themes of hard times and troubles. I also really liked "Wagon Wheel", for anyone who has worked and travelled they'll find an affinity with its themes of longing for home but liking for the freedom of the open road.
I must admit I harbour a bit of a like for this kind of music, it sort of runs in the family, and being raised on the blues I'm already well conditioned to it. If you were a fan of the Coen brothers tribute to Homers 'Odyssey' - 'O Brother Where Art Thou' and the music that featured in the film, then you will definitely like this album.
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It's not overly brilliant but it's quaint and honest simplicity should win it a few fans.