By AARON RICHARDSON
Fans of Old Crow Medicine Show have been without new material from the Nashville-based roots band since “Big Iron World” came out in 2006. Since then, OCMS have toured tirelessly, and played “Wagon Wheel,” their most recognized track, at least three billion times.
In an effort to move beyond their well-established reputation as a top-shelf traditional Americana act, Old Crow have moved to a more modern sound on “Tennessee Pusher.”
Released on Sept. 23, “Pusher” is a definite departure from the banjo and fiddle-driven songs of their last four albums.
“Tennessee Pusher” marks the first time the band has released an album of entirely original material. On previous records, Old Crow have stuck to a regimen of original songs mixed in with rearranged folk traditionals.
The new album utilizes accents from the dobro of Critter Fuqua, and Ketch Secor’s plaintive harmonica. The effect is a much bluesier record than any of their previous efforts. The most serious departure from the Old Crow fans have come to know is the addition of a drummer on several tracks.
On “Methamphetamine,” for example, the band employs a simple, driving drumbeat accompanied by some of bassist Morgan Jahnig’s more elegant work to date. Coupled with an opening harmonica solo, you get something resembling a southern Bruce Springsteen.
That isn’t to say they’ve cribbed the Boss’s towering guitar or saxophone solos, far from it, but the structure and lyrical content bare a resemblance. Whereas OCMS were a strictly traditional folk-bluegrass band, they have moved into the realm of alt-country in one swift move.
For those fans opposed to this movement, tracks like “Always Lift Him Up and Never Let Him Down,” and “Next Go ‘Round” let the Old Crow of the past shine through. On “Next Go ‘Round” OCMS return to the fiddle-driven melodies of their past albums, accompanied by simple guitar work and a plodding bass line.
On their fifth studio release, Old Crow Medicine Show have made an effort to expand their sound and musical sensibilities beyond traditional covers. By adding new sounds, and focusing away from what fans are used to, OCMS have produced a refreshing record that highlights both versatility and a true songwriting talent.
After four albums spent honing their songwriting skills, OCMS have pulled together a solid collection of all-original material.