Review: Old Crow Medicine Show Celebrate a Jubilee

Old Crow Medicine Show/Jubilee/ATO Records
Four Out Five Stars

An album titled Jubilee would seem most appropriate for Old Crow Medicine Show, a band that never comes up short as far as energy and exuberance are concerned. Their eighth album overall, it coincides with their 25th anniversary as a band and serves as a companion piece to last year’s Paint This Town, a record that quickly rose to number one on both the Americana and bluegrass album charts.

Jubilee ought to be no less successful. Not only does it boast a similar celebratory sound — as evidenced by the rowdy, upbeat enticement of “Keel Over and Die,” “I Want It Now,” “Wolfman of the Ozarks,” and “Belle Meade Cockfight” —  but the fact that it also finds an array of A-list names contributing their talents ought to draw attention as well. The guest list includes Willie Watson, who makes his first appearance with the band in over ten years, Sierra Ferrell, and, perhaps most significantly, Mavis Staples, who turns in a sterling performance on the moving and modestly-titled closing track, “One Drop.”

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Not that Old Crow Medicine Show isn’t capable of delivering all on their own. The sweetly sentimental sounds of “Miles Away” (co-written by the band’s defacto leader Ketch Secor and bluegrass belle Molly Tuttle), the rambling narrative titled “Ballad of Jubilee Jones” and the enthused and affectionate “Smoky Mountain Girl” all testify to their ability to match their more robust outpourings with the tender trappings shared through beautiful balladry. So too, their reverence for their roots finds them reaching back to early influences, beautifully expressed in the guise of three beautiful archival-sounding folk tunes, “Daughter of the Highlands,” “Nameless, TN” and “Allegheny Lullaby.” 

Of course, any Old Crow Medicine Show album could be considered lacking if it didn’t boast at least a few songs ideally suited to live performance and a sound akin to a rousing revival. The jaunty “Shit Kicked In” and fit that description to a tee. As a result, Jubilee is everything one might expect from an Old Crow album, that same combination of depth and delight that’s made them a bastion of bluegrass and Americana icons. Every song testifies to their seemingly effortless indulgence, resulting in a joyful combination of intellect and ability. Those qualities alone are sufficient enough to prove their prowess.

Photo by Joshua Black Wilkins /Missing Piece Group

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