When I first heard Old Crow’s self-titled album, I ate it right up. With instant classics like “Tell It To Me” and “Wagon Wheel,” OCMS became a popular band for such a rootsy, raw sound, and a major influence in alt-country/roots music. But as I listened to that album and their subsequent releases, my mood on them began to grow sour. Their songwriting skills cannot be denied, and their arrangement and harmonies are superb. But the instrumentation can be sloppy, which at first is endearing, but slowly becomes revealing.
Then there is them “effecting” their voices, trying to sound like Southern bumpkin fallover drunks, when in reality their stone sober in an air conditioned studio. Take their song CC Rider as an example. I’ll eat a bug if this is how these guys sound in real life. The part where Ketch or Willie (not sure which one) says “Play a little while let me get my harmonica,” in such a ridiculously overacted voice makes me want to take the CD and smash it against the wall and never speak of it again. This is what Leroy Virgil was talking about, that lack of genuineness.
They also love to get political on your ass. And not in a cool, ambiguous “the government’s gone nuts” kind of way, but in a way that makes them come across as pushy, pointy nosed intellectual liberals living in very tight reality tunnels, clashing with their bumpkin uneducated style of music. For example in their song “Humdinger” off of Tennessee Pusher the line is, “If you’re not a right winger, then we’ll all have a humdinger.”
My guess is there’s many more “Humdingers” involving “Wine, whiskey, women, AND GUNS” going on in red states than blue, and in my life experience, whether you have a “D” or an “R” in front of your name makes no difference how much you partake in the previously-quoted vices.
Recently their music has become more mainstream. I love the producer Don Was, but why do you need a big name producer to make what is supposed to be simple old time string music?
Without question, Old Crow Medicine Show has been a great ambassador for dirty roots music. I also know that Doc Watson, Emmylou Harris and other high profile people have put their name behind them. But to me they’ve always felt like they are on the outside looking in at what’s really going on in the roots movement, that they’re missing that “soul.” Sure they’re good, but there’s so much better. That’s why a few years back OCMS had to open for the .357 String Band instead of vice versa in Europe, because for whatever reason, the Europeans have a better nose for authenticity than the American public.
I’m not saying I hate the music. On the contrary. But the OCMS approach has given me a love/hate relationship with this band.
What do YOU think?