There has been a trend of late; bearded, knitted-capped,
blazer-wearing, sundress champions (if they have female band members) have
grabbed up old whiskey jugs, dulcimers and fiddles and turned to bluegrass
& folk music for inspiration. These
bands choose the age-old music of the hills for a profession, in many cases
tweaking it to such a point that, in the end, it only vaguely resembles the genre
from which it sprang. Bands like Mumford
and Sons, Avett Brothers, Split Lip Rayfield and Yonder Mountain String Band
have been leading the way in the semi-traditionalist charge with their varying
takes on what some may reflexively call “hillbilly music” but is probably more
accurately – and certainly more respectfully – referred to as music from the
southeastern end of the Appalachian mountains.
Those bands may be the most noticeable names, due to their buzzband statuses
(and they don’t all hail from the mountains, either; the Mumfords are based in
but the true kings of this revival are Old Crow Medicine Show.
With their latest offering Carry Me Back, the banjos are ringin’, the mandolins are singing at
the speed of a hummingbird’s wings, the fiddles are sawed upon with vigor, and
the fog of the Tennessee
hills calls to all of us. Since the
return of founding member Critter Fuqua earlier this year (following the
departure of Willie Watson), it sounds as though an explosion of energy and a
newfound love for the music has engulfed the band, translating brilliantly,
perfectly to Carry.
With Carry Me Back, they
have succeeded in bringing a genre back to the world in its purest form. Fiddles, mandolins, acoustic guitars and
standup bass intermingle to create a music that diehard roots music fans would
love and, at the same time, win over new converts. It is the perfect time for an album like Carry Me Back, a time when the
mainstream has come around to them; it welcomes their tradition-minded approach
built around groundbreakers like Bill Monroe, The Stanley Brothers, Charley
Patton and Jimmie Rodgers.
The two tracks that open the record, “Carry Me Back to
Virginia” and “We Don’t Grow Tobacco” are the songs that blast the listener
back to a forgot time most of all. If
you stuck them on a 78 acetate disc and cranked up the old Edison,
you’d swear they were recorded at the Bristol Sessions alongside the Carter
Family. Singer/fiddler Ketch Secor has a
new found joy in the songs and it has made for possibly Old Crow Medicine
Show’s best record since 2006’s Big Iron
There is a striking feeling and power woven throughout the
songs, whether its “Bootlegger’s Boy,” “Mississippi Saturday Night,” “Steppin’
Out” or “Sewanee Mountain Catfight.” Old
Crow Medicine Show are ready for a new phase, poised to take their place among
the new wave of neo-traditionalists.
Hell, with a record as flawless as Carry
Me Back under their belts, they are in a position to take the lead and show
these kids how it is really done. Earl
Scruggs, A.P. Carter, “Stringbean” Akeman and Roy Acuff would most definitely
DOWNLOAD: “Bootlegger’s Boy,” “We Don’t Grow Tobacco” DANNY R.