Big Iron World – Old Crow Medicine Show
On first listen, the boys of Old Crow Medicine Show seem to put out music that’s as standard as any bluegrass mountain band, chock full of banjos, fiddles, and folky lyrics. But listen to their sophomore album, Big Iron World, again and it’s clear that they are channeling, among other legendary artists, Willie Nelson and the Grateful Dead. It’s particularly evident on “Cocaine Habit,” an upbeat traditional ballad, as quick as cocaine itself, that has been covered by many bands, including the Memphis Jug Band, and of course, the Grateful Dead.
For such young artists, Old Crow Medicine Show have garnered quite a bit of clout: they appear on the Transamerica soundtrack, played in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and have been on stage at the Newport Folk Festival, Bonnaroo, and the New Orleans Jazz Festival, to name a few. Here, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings have teamed up with OCMS once again, Welch taking over the drums on four tracks and Rawlings lending his guitar licks to two tracks, as well as producing the album. Pretty impressive if you ask me.
Covering Woody Guthrie’s “Union Maid,” Ketch Secor’s vocals are quick with the perfect amount of twang to pull it off, the backing harmonies of Willie Watson and Critter Fuqua completing the song. Closing the Big Iron World is the strongest track yet, “Bobcat Tracks,” on which Fuqua sounds almost exactly like Bob Dylan in his earlier days, right down to the accent and drawl, as he asks “Do you feel alright?” The bottom line here is that the Nashville guys sound like mountain men and look like skinny punk rockers, but they blend the past and present together like few others can.