Old Crow Medicine Show

Remedy

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Old Crow Medicine Show, Virginia's modern string band, has come a long way since 2006's self-titled debut album and breakout track "Wagon Wheel." Originally an unfinished Bob Dylan demo from the Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid sessions, it was completed by Ketcham Secor and has become a 21st century Americana standard. Produced by Ted Hutt, Remedy is the band's fifth album and most polished recording -- but that doesn't mean slick. The organic instrumentation that felt lacking on 2012's Carry Me Back returns here, with tighter arrangements, closer harmonies, and better dynamics. That thumping upright bass is mixed right up front with banjos, fiddles, and mandolins. Dylan sent them another demo -- from the same sessions that produced "Wagon Wheel" -- but "Sweet Amarillo" is a more formal co-write. Secor sent his finished version back to Dylan, who made further changes before it was recorded. This song is where Virginia mountain music meets Texas hill country-dancehall waltz. It's driven by an accordion with fiddles, bass, and snare upfront, as the banjo and guitars support the rhythm; it feels like something from the Basement Tapes. The rolling, rocking hillbilly blues in the humorous opener, "Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer," swaggers like something from the first half of Bringing It All Back Home with a dobro played in Josh Graves' or Ferrell Stowe's old-school style. The ragtime blues "Doc's Day" is a tribute to Doc Watson, translated through the inspiration of the Memphis Jug Band. "Cumberland River" is a stomping fiddle tune that weds reel to bluegrass to folk blues shuffle in a midtempo stomper. Bluegrass gets its own turn in "8 Dogs 8 Banjos" and "Tennessee Bound," the former, with its charging rhythm and banjo, reworks the sound of Flatt & Scruggs, while the latter, with its locked-on harmonies, careening fiddles, and mandolins is inspired by the Delmore Brothers. Yet OCMS put their own distinct, modern spin on both. This isn't your grandpa's bluegrass. The minor-key "Shit Creek," with its banjo breakdowns, is as adrenaline-drenched as the Bad Livers. "Brave Boys" is hardcore mountain music done with punk rock energy. "Sweet Home" fuses gospel to swing and old-timey fiddle music with layered vocal harmonies, amid banjo, bass, and fiddles in interplay. Remedy is not as raw or rough as earlier dates; that's to be expected and is welcome. This band has not only learned to play more confidently as a unit, they can now musically stretch to embrace even more early styles and weave them into their sound. Ambitious in its reach, Remedy keeps close to the ground in in its inspiration and execution.

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