Paint This Town

Old Crow Medicine Show

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Paint This Town Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Critter Fuqua left Old Crow Medicine Show shortly after the band celebrated their 21st birthday in 2019, leaving Ketch Secor as the lone remaining founding Crow on Paint This Town, the group's return to their old home ATO Records. Secor seizes the opportunity provided by Fuqua's departure to revamp Old Crow, giving the band their first permanent drummer in Jerry Pentecost, a shift that broadens the group's reach while also giving them a serious kick. Maybe the backbeat is prominent on Paint This Town, but the music is still recognizably Old Crow Medicine Show; Fuqua's presence is even felt, as he's credited on two of the album's 12 songs. Secor does make a conscious decision to have Old Crow sing songs of inclusion, imagining a Mississippi flag that represents all the people, writing an ode to abolitionist John Brown, and ceding the spotlight to Pentecost to sing a tribute to Black country pioneer DeFord Bailey. While all of these subjects may reside in the past, their presence is pointedly political, as is the looming specter of climate change on "Used to Be a Mountain" and "Gloryland," a song that captures the fever dreams of a world gone wrong. Mortality also weighs upon Secor, as he ponders middle age on the road on "Reasons to Run." Heavy subjects all, but Old Crow Medicine Show lighten the mood with the heartland anthems of "Paint This Town" and the breakneck bluegrass of "Painkiller" -- two songs written in tandem by Secor and Jim Lauderdale -- and such old-timey shuffles as "Lord Willing and the Creek Don't Rise" and "Hillbilly Boy," tunes that give Paint This Town levity but also deepen its soul. Making a joyous noise helps ease the pain of troubled times, and that's precisely what happens here: the good and the bad intermingle like the past and the present, resulting in a lively, heartfelt record.

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