Album Review – Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Jubilee”

Wanna feel old? Then appreciate it’s been 25 years since Old Crow Medicine Show officially formed on a street corner in Harrisonburg, Virginia. It’s been 20 years since they were telling all of us to drink the corn liquor and let the cocaine be. Now Grand Ole Opry members, a proving ground for talent, and the origination point of one of the most popular (and reviled) songs in country history (yes, “Wagon Wheel”), Old Crow Medicine Show feels just as much like an institution as it does a band.

To celebrate 25 years of existence, they’ve released the new album Jubilee, which feels very much like vintage and peak Old Crow Medicine Show. Though the origins of Old Crow are as a busking string band putting on a post-Vaudevillian show sweating hard for your ragged dollar, at times in the band’s history they’ve gotten a little bored with that formula and leaned too much into trying to be an alt-country or indie folk band.

But Old Crow Medicine Show is at its best when they embrace the wild assed hillbilly street performer persona. Crow has always put the “show” into their version of throwback country, and some consider them as the first country hipster band, calling it a push between them and BR549. But they pack a lot of entertainment into each note, and that’s what you get on Jubilee.

“Keel Over and Die,” “I Want It Now,” “Wolfman of the Ozarks,” and “Belle Meade Cockfight” with the incredible Sierra Ferrell are just the kind of frenetic and entertaining tunes that have sustained Old Crow Medicine Show for a quarter century. And despite the final remaining founding member Ketch Secor now finding his way through the world in his mid 40s, he still can bring the speed and enthusiasm these songs require.

Since the beginning, Old Crow Medicine Show has also tried to slip in some more meaningful songs, including ones that address things like poverty and addiction. With so much talk about small towns and the American poor, let’s allow “Allegheny Lullaby” about the prison some small towns become for poor people to enter the chat. Old Crow may not specialize in love songs, but that’s really what “Wagon Wheel” is when you boil it down. “Smoky Mountain Girl” with its great melody and chorus makes a run at being one of the band’s best.

Another good song from the album is “Nameless, TN” that gives off Bob Dylan vibes. One of the band’s original members Willie Watson shows up to sing on the song “Miles Away,” which is co-written by Ketch Secor’s current catch, surging bluegrass star Molly Tuttle. Ketch writes or co-writes all the songs on the album, including multiple co-writes with the rather recent addition to the band, banjo/guitar player Mason Via.

After Ketch Secor, bass player Morgan Jahnig is the longest serving member in Old Crow. Though drummer Jerry Pentecost appears on this album, it appears he was replaced recently live with Dante Pope. Multi-instrumentalist Mike Harris is another recent edition to the band, and you also can’t forget Cory Younts, who performs on mandolin when he’s not getting sloshed at Dee’s Liquor Lounge and loudly talking shit on everyone else in the industry, including yours truly.

Old Crow Medicine Show isn’t trying to reinvent the wagon wheel here or anything, or trying too hard to save the world with overly sappy sentiments like they sometimes do. Sure, they can be a little cheesy at times, but that’s what they do best. They’re Old Crow Medicine SHOW, and Jubilee embraces everything that’s enjoyable about this band, making for a great way to commemorate 25 years.

1 3/4 Guns Up (8/10)

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