Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Old Crow Medicine Show - Tennessee Pusher Review

OK So it's different. Ketch is stretching out as a songwriter, Gill Landry is stepping up to the plate for slide, banjo and songwriting. While Critter is contributing vocal harmonies, but no picking or new songs.

They've come down from the mountain and have been living in the City for how long? OCMS was pretty much Mountain music. Big Iron World was transitional. Tennessee Pusher is born out of time to think about the lives rolling past. Lots of lives. Some of them not making it. It's City Music. It's vision is bigger out of necessity, not so much hoe-down and more looking and thinking sharp. But still the same work and trials and heartbreak, only with an edge. It's watching the world and it's triumph is how immediate it is. These are personal songs and they make OCMS seem like a dream. A romance back there when we were kids, and leaning on the El Dorado. That old beast is rusty now and you're wary when it goes past.

Alabama High Test is a rompin uptempo tune with energy and attitude. A great opener if you don't know where this album is going by verse two you should only go outside during daylight hours.

Highway Halo is the biggest departure. I guess it's the daylight hours version. A gentle drum and slide led reverie of the open road. Morgan's bass runs are pretty modern here, too, and the banjo is way back. You'd be hard pushed to recognise this as Old Crow. It's a very catchy song though and once I made the adjustment it quite often comes to mind during the day. I'd love to hear what this sounds like live, after hours, waiting for lift south.

Greatest Hustler is my favourite song on the disc. It's ancient and it's happening right under our noses. It fits right in there with Always Lift Him Up in that "them's just folks" department, so it doesn't cast judgement. It's plaintive heart string stuff, and it's a timeless story that is stretching the realm of possibilities just too far. It's funny. It's cartoon but it's heart break. Beautiful and instantly memorable.

Methamphetamine is dark alley stuff, the modern drug fable, and it twists you as the story unfolds. The harp is great as are the harmonies and that "falls of the Cumberland" line is stellar. I'm not so enamoured of keltner's drumming on this, but it's another powerful song and we start to get a picture building up.

Next Go Round is just stunning. Stop me in my tracks. An instant classic, like Take Em Away from OCMS this is timeless and achingly beautiful. The fiddle. Willie singing with Ketch and Critter harmonising. Another favourite.

Humdinger. A fun tune from Kevin and great to sing along with. I think this song got left unfinished - I loved hearing it live and somehow there's a bit missing here. In fact a live version for the album would have been the way to go. I don't mind the "right-winger/folksinger" bits - it's Animal House here and all comers who can take the pace are welcome .. just don't go making speeches or sitting on the stairs being all aloof and enigmatic.

Motel in Memphis comes lurching off of the Rolling Thunder Revue, whitefaced and staring out of those dark corners again, and it yet sounds so pretty - the fiddle - the melody. I get the impression that MLK is as much an icon here as Mr Crump, and we're been given another broad brush-stroke of the obvious. The Old Crows walking out with their eyes open. It's still about the street where we all live.

Evening Sun is another of Willie's plaintive ballads, with the beat picked up a little. The opening melody is very similar to Next Go Round but damn it's a good song. There's another "Thousand somethings", too, which bugs me a bit. But damn it's a good song.

Mary's Kitchen is wonderful and boy am I ready for some old time uptempo footstomping sweaty goodtime music. Thanks Gill.

Crazy Eyes. Starts off on the porch real personal like. Another of Ketch's alter-ego's trying to make sense of the world, not causing trouble but not really getting involved anymore, making good sense but and still Crazy. I love this track. And the way it steps back and then makes way for

Tennessee Pusher is eeire. Another instantly real narrator telling the story we don't want to hear. It's just us Crows here and we can talk straight, right. Throw another log on the fire, I feel cold inside, and I'm wondering where this life of mine is going ...

Always lift Him Up is a lovely treatment of an good song. Willie's voice hits the heartstrings again, and there's that Willie/Ketch/Critter harmony effortlessly lifting us higher than a cathedral roof - plus it's just Old Crows playing. We're reminded that there's been no judgement at all for the last hour. Just watching, wondering , trying to explain, trying to feel our way through this crazy world. And our friends and neighbours trying to do the same.

Caroline. This version is now neck and neck with the OCMS out-take. I love the pace and muscially it has the edge, but the out-take has the turning flips line and the thousand miles apart line. Tough call. Great song either way, and a good closer for the album.

This going to be in my player for a good long time.

Old Crow Medicine Show Buy It From The Boys!! The whole full quality Top Notch CD for $11.99 !!

You can hear a bunch of the songs over at the Amie Street Blog which seems to be legal lowbitrate versions, since Amie Street is selling the album ($8.98 download).

Here's an example:
Greatest Hustler Of All mp3


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