Old Crow Medicine Show
Paint This Town
4 out of 5 stars
Few bands generate as much exuberance and enthusiasm as Old Crow Medicine Show, a band that’s built its following through populist appeal and absolute allegiance to down-home upstart Americana. Paint This Town offers yet another ideal example, a breathtaking set of songs that reflects their usual combination of inspiration and abandon. Here, however, the music is shared from a decidedly personal perspective, one reflected in both outlook and observation. It begins appropriately with the rowdy and rambunctious title track, a recounting of their ramshackle trajectory across the past 20 years (We were teenage troubadours hopping on box cars / For a hell of a one-way ride) while also exuding the devil-may-care attitude that’s at the core of their convictions.
That said, there’s a diverse and distinct array of sentiments found throughout. “Bombs Away” shares singer and multi-instrumentalist Ketch Secor’s remorse and regret in the aftermath of a severed marriage, the emotion propelled at a double-time tempo. “Reasons to Run” imagines the Lone Ranger as a weary road warrior committed to an increasingly tedious touring schedule. The lovesick lament “Honey Chile” provides its own homesick homily. The most incisive commentary is reserved for “Gloryland,” an unabashedly edgy commentary on the perils of modern existence.
So too, the unrelenting rhythm of “Used To Be a Mountains” affirms the price paid by despoiling the environment, calling out the fat cats, race rats, big Pharma, tall stacks in particular.
Nevertheless, those that relish the celebratory sounds that informed OCMS’ first six albums needn’t worry that the revelry has receded. “Lord Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise,” “Painkiller,” and “Deford Rides Again” maintain the energy at a fevered pitch, the freewheeling finesse firmly at the fore. “New Mississippi Flag” extols the need for a new state emblem that best represents its role as the cultural cradle of the South.
In that regard, Paint This Town could be considered the group’s most emphatic effort yet, given its music and messaging. Simply put, it’s also their best to boot.