Old Crow Medicine Show, Big Iron World

Andrew Mueller

By Andrew Mueller

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Big Iron World

Old Crow Medicine Show

Old Crow Medicine Show's second album, originally released in 2006, is very much a sequel to their first. Once again, David Rawlings produces and co-writes. Once again, the songs are a mixture of traditional songs, covers and originals. Once again, the music sounds like it could have been recorded at any point between the early 21st century and the battle of Gettysburg, wrought from acoustic guitars, harmonicas and fiddles, and garlanded with vocal harmonies. And, once again, it's great — Old Crow Medicine Show play, sing and arrange the material with a gleeful zest that overcomes any tendency, wearyingly common in folkish arena, to submit to reverent earnestness.

Traditional songs, covers and originals from a group of folkies that shy away from reverent earnestness

Their choice of the older material on Big Iron World, indeed, seems intended to counter the popular notion of folk music as a genre devoted exclusively to misery and poverty: the two opening tracks, the Butler/Leiber standard “Down Home Girl” and the updating of skiffle antique “Take a Whiff on Me” as “Cocaine Habit” are great big dumb fun, and establish the idea of folk as a spiritual ancestor of metal. Woody Guthrie's “Union Maid” and the traditional “Let It Alone” are similarly playful and bitterly hilarious. The original material contributed by OCMS, from the bracingly unsubtle innuendo of train song “New Virginia Creeper” to the gorgeous gospel rally “I Hear Them All,” demonstrates that there's abundant life in these old sounds yet.