A quick glance at their reviews shows that the Nashville-based band Old Crow Medicine Show has been classified as a Bluegrass band, Rock group, Country blues singers, and a Punk quintet. A listen to the new CD, Tennessee Pusher, doesn't make it any easier to pin the band down to just one sound, which is probably the way they like it.
The song's sad harmonica break sounds like something Folk legend Woody Guthrie might have written. But the words of "Methamphetamine," and its story about the perils of drug use is pure 21st century.
That blending of traditional American Roots sounds with modern lyrics is quickly becoming a trademark of Old Crow Medicine Show. But it's also important to remember that while this is a band that sounds old-time, they are not a bunch of revivalists.
Despite Old Crow's affinity for featuring covers of Country classis on their earlier releases, Tennessee Pusher features more original songs than any of the band's previous CDs. The lone exception is a new version of "Blind Alfred" Reed's song from the 1920s called "Lift Him Up."
Soon after its release, Tennessee Pusher was Number One on the Billboard Bluegrass Albums chart. But calling Old Crow Medicine Show a Bluegrass band doesn't really describe the sound of a group that you'll also find playing at Rock festivals like the annual Bonaroo event in Tennessee. Old Crow Medicine Show's instrumentation, guitars, banjos, and violins, may fit the Bluegrass mold, but the songs and the way they're performed is more Rock and Roll and edgier than today's Country music.
While many of the songs on Tennessee Pusher deal with the subjects like drugs and danger, it's not all darkness on this record. "Caroline" might be a sad story, but it's also full of hope.
Subject matter that isn't the only difference for Old Crow Medicine Show this time around. There was also a switch in producers for their fourth CD. Their earlier records were produced by Country music revivalist David Rawlings. This time it is Don Was, known for working with Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys. Longtime fans shouldn't worry though. Having a new man in charge doesn't result in a big change to the group's sound. It just helped to fill out the mix of old-style sounds and modern stories that's made Old Crow Medicine Show popular with fans of many different styles of music.
The age-old topic of "love gone wrong" is also revisited on Tennessee Pusher. "The Greatest Hustler of All" is an extended story of heartbreak and humiliation … with a bit of humor thrown in to prevent the song from being too tragic a tale of lost love.