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Old Crow Medicine Show Old Crow Medicine Show
Album: Volunteer
Label: Sony
Tracks: 11

You just know you are in for a good time when the cracking pace of "Ficher & Shine" explodes from your speakers. A good ole country hoedown is on the cards from the start. Towards the middle of the song the pace slackens to a pleasant lolloping gait, but the enthusiasm soon drives the tempo back up to almost frenetic proportions. A hootenanny at full speed makes the listener wonder how on earth they keep up the pace producing such a joyous atmosphere. The recording session must have been a hoot. Don't ask me what the song was about, I am not at all clear on that, but don't concern yourselves, just join in the fun.

"A World Away" is a more considered song, where our hero is on the outside looking in, not allowed admission. A few steps off, but yet a world away. " I'm a world away standin' at the gates and I see her face, but I'm a world away" He is desperate to get in offering to do all sorts of work around the place. He'll wade through rivers and march through sand, just be allowed to join in. You might think this is a lament, but the song cracks along, hiding his disappointment behind a cheerful performance.

"Child Of The Mississippi" is a much more reflective narrative tale relating the history of a young boy who was orphaned after his father left and mother died. "I was raised on the river, muddy water gonna carry me home, she's gonna rock me like a baby rollin' in her sweet lovin' arms, just a barefoot boy born in Dixieland brought up on the banks to be a river man sweet child of the Mississippi" The sound of dixieland music accompanies this tale, which is not a message that conveys a feeling of being sorry for himself. mere acceptance of his circumstances and getting on with life. It is an uplifting story of someone making the best of things. The music is particularly fine too. bottle guitar playing gives it authenticity.

"Dixie Avenue." Twangy guitar reminiscent of the style of Duane Eddy opens this track which is a feel good romp through the life and times of those who live on Dixie Avenue. They seem to not be wanting too much, just having a good time "When the light comes shinin' from a southern moon We'll be dancin' down the middle of Dixie Avenue. When the big, bright sun starts a-burnin' through We'll still be a-dancin' on Dixie Avenue" The realities of all this good time living come to fruition in the form of a pregnancy, a hastily arranged marriage and a house obtained. But none of this dampens any of the fun. "We'll just keep dancing down Dixie Avenue" Isn't life just grand?

"Look Away" A nostalgic look at a little country town with tin roof shanties lining the street, some guy sitting on the step of the store plucking a banjo. the sort of place where cold bottled milk and honey are more use than a pocket full of money. The song gives a nod to the Indians from which the land was won, where now cotton grows and the green grass fades to grey. The lyrics in this slightly sad song where a man and a mule look much the same to the boss, contain some poetic observations. "Where the singin' river flows, and it knows every name of a thousand years of footsteps chasin' its wide domain" and "See the sign on the cross, sayin' "Brother ain't you heard? That this is the land where salvation ain't a dirty word" It is astonishingly evocative of such a place and paints a vivid picture of one of thousands of small towns just like it. The piano and fiddle along with restrained guitar and percussion complement the passionate vocal which makes this an attractive and melancholy track in contrast to some of the other tracks on this delightful CD.

Shout Mountain Music. We are back in party mode for this track. and a hectic one it is too. the sheer joy of playing country music fast comes through big time and why wouldn't it? "I'll be high up on the mountain when daylight comes and I ain't gonna change my sound when ole' Smokey comes around I'm gonna' shout mountain music all night long" Yee Hah!

"The Good Stuff" Allegedly the best stuff (moonshine or otherwise) comes from under the counter in the liquor store. This number is all about getting the quality booze. "First great stuff, what we take, don't water it down when I'm drinkin' it straight. Hey man (you know damn well), we want the good stuff!" There is little to add except that in typical western country style, the music drives this track along as famously as the cars with "breathed on" engines trying to escape the local Sherriff as they smuggled it over the county line.

"Old Hickory" The plaintiff sound of the fiddle eases us into the sad tale of Vigil Lee who made friends with a wild cat who turned out to the devil in disguise. The cat was tenacious and wormed his way into and round Virgil's life, much like the old Hickory plant that still shades the porch of a house no longer standing. "...and all that summer was fire and rain Virgil Lee started nursin' the pain 'Til every one of them songs he would play was twisted, falling down" He started singing dark songs, not really knowing where the music came from. A salutary tale about watching who you hook up with. It could result in your ruin.

"Homecoming Party" Initially in this song, I was almost fooled into thinking I had switched tracks and was listening to Glen Campbell's "Gentle on my mind." The song has the a similar timbre and the story not such a different tale. Weary after a long journey this travelling musician arrives home, patting the dog who was too tired to wag his tail in greeting, to be confronted by all those jobs that still needed doing just as before he left. His wife and children are all abed, he is tired, "All this gettin' off the road has got me ragged to the bone and coming home, There ain't no homecoming party." The song has a gentle rolling gait and a tempo that emulates the famous Campbell number. I liked it and thought that it portrays very well the situation faced by millions of husbands (not just musicians), home after a gruelling tour or time away.

"Elzichs' Farewell" We don't know who Elzich was or where he was going, but in this instrumental, they certainly give him a good send off. The whole band combine at a cracking pace to play this lively jig. I doubt many would be able to dance to this tune such is the tempo. It is a complete contrast the ennui described in the previous song. There will not be many asleep as Elzich bids us all farewell.

"Whirlwind" Seeing this title I expected a similar tempo to that described in Elzich's Farewell. But this is a charming love song reflecting on a whirlwind romance. The disrupting influence of love that comes with a passion so deep as to complete derail any previous plans. From the moment he saw her in her muddy boots at harvest time, he knew. The moments they shared singing together, watching the moon rise, dancing together with her breath on his cheek all culminate in a love so powerful that it caused a storm in his life..

I found this a surprising album, such variety in content and emotion exhibits real consideration into not only the track listing and order, but the musicianship. Those playing throughout this CD are beyond measure as is the thought put into each and every song. It sometimes displays a happy, devil may care attitude and other times a more reflective and sober persona and is all the richer for that. Thoroughly recommended.

Tony Collins