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Old Crow Medicine Show
Big Iron World
Nettwerk Records

Traditional. That's the word that comes to mind when first listening to the new record by Old Crow Medicine Show. The Show's music relies on traditional blues and bluegrass elements to carry its wonderful beauty. The songs on Big Iron World span moods, from barn-burning hoedowns to melancholy dirges and lilting folk tunes. The record is produced by David Rawlings and carries a bit of his alt-country edginess, but doesn't stray far from its more traditional rootsy feel.

Opener "Down Home Girl" is bluesy and gritty, with just the right amount of sass and darkness carried along the rolling harmonica lines and brilliant slide guitar. "Cocaine Habit" is a banjo-based stomp that could have been lifted right from the Hee Haw pages - the traditional lyrics obtain a new bounce as interpreted by OCMS. "Minglewood Blues" is a speedy barn-burner reminiscent of the Kingston Trio's finer jumpy moments, while "My Good Gal", featuring beautiful guitar by Rawlings, is a slower and more deliberate original song lamenting a loved one. The mood is melancholy and dirgish, but there is also a life in the song that belies the darkness of the lyrics.

Ketch Secor really stretches his songwriting on Big Iron World, showing a maturity and strength not found on the last OCMS release, and some of that probably comes from co-writing tunes with David Rawlings. Rawlings co-pens a number of the songs, including the dark folk of "James River Blues". The track features some fine fiddling, as well as a guest appearance by Rawlings' longtime collaborator Gillian Welch… on drums of all things! Welch also plays drums on the old-timey scrub of "New Virginia Creeper", a song that is filled with strummed banjo and a hopping bassline that underscores some amazing harmonica playing. Woody Guthrie's "Union Maid" is presented here in a fast-moving hoedown, nicely complementing Secor's songs that have a very deliberate cast of tales about Middle America and the working man. The gospel flavor kicks in strong on the awesome "God's Got It", a sober tune in the tradition of the mountains. Rawlings and Welch both join in on the glorious "I Hear Them All", a Secor/ Rawlings composition that sounds more like the Appalachian region than most anything recorded in the last 50 years. "Don't Ride That Horse" is a dark banjo dirge and "Bobcat Tracks" wraps the album with a high-stepping flavor and lyrical presentation that recalls a very young Bob Dylan in its intensity and flavor.

While OCMS's latest release doesn't really break any new musical ground or explore new sonic territories, the songs have a very classic feeling that is instantly familiar and likeable. Big Iron World is a hootenanny of the finest sort - songs never lag, the mood stays fairly light despite the occasional dirge, and dancing is almost requisite. If you hanker for a bit of the old time Americana, then step up to the Medicine Show and get a dose.

-Embo Blake

Track Listing:
1. Down Home Girl
2. Cocaine Habit
3. Minglewood Blues
4. My Good Gal
5. James River Blues
6. New Virginia Creeper
7. Union Maid
8. Let It Alone
9. God's Got It
10. I Hear Them All
11. Don't Ride That Horse
12. Bobcat Tracks

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