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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Old Crow Medicine Show is Legit Country Now, for Better or Worse

Posted By on Thu, Sep 18, 2014 at 3:24 PM

click to enlarge ocmsopryc-7108-copy1.jpg

In the past 15 years, Nashville string band Old Crow Medicine Show has refined its sound from ramshackle to radio-friendly, but there's still plenty of fire in frontman Ketch Secor's fiddle and a joyful noise in at least half the songs on the new album, Remedy.

Inducted into the Grand Ole Opry last fall, OCMS is legit country now, so on the latest album it's no surprise to find a handful of tunes that mainstream country folks will eat up, while the rest of us forward to the next track. One such spit-shined number is the first single, "Sweet Amarillo," the combo's second collaboration with Bob Dylan. A far cry from "Wagon Wheel," the platinum-selling singalong the band constructed from Dylan's bootleg scraps a decade ago, this new one's all pretty-mouth vocals, Tex-Mex squeezebox, and vacuous drums — yes, drums (and not the old-time junkyard stylin' of the latest Devil Makes Three).

In brief, the tune's got no soul. This is exactly why Willie Watson, one of the group's founding members, left to do his own thing a couple years back. Few old-school OCMS fans, former bandmates included, have much patience for this kind of polished production. Thankfully, the raw Old Crow sound that drew legions of indie rockers to the band's 21st-century updates on old-time misfit folk music is still in effect on "Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer" (oh such dirty fun), "8 Dogs 8 Banjos" (a hands-in-the-air barnyard revival), and "Shit Creek" (where the ghost of Charlie Daniels shreds).

The group has also expanded now to include seven full-time members and additional string-slinging on slide guitar, mandolin, and, best of all: dueling banjos!

Old Crow Medicine Show performs with The Deslondes on Saturday, Sept. 20, at 7:30 p.m. at the Masonic, 1111 California St. Tickets are $37.50; go to sfmasonic.com for more info.
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Sam Prestianni

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