Old Crow Medicine Show returned with "Carry Me Back" in 2012 after a brief hiatus and lineup changes. The album was a predictable collection from the group, hearkening back to their earlier releases and stepping away from the dark undertones of the highlight "Tennessee Pusher" album. It was a welcome recording for long time fans of the group, but blended in with much of their discography.
"Remedy" is easily recognizable as an OCMS recording, but this time around, the band decided to push their musical boundaries a little bit more. The 13 tracks are once again roots based, but they feel refreshed. Maybe it is the departure of Willie Watson, whose presence on past releases was always at the forefront. Maybe it is the recording return of a rejuvenated Critter Fuqua. Whatever the reason, the group recorded their most invigorating album in years.
Lead track "Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer" is a humorous ode to the bright side of spending time in prison. Both it and the follow up, "8 Dogs 8 Banjos," are fast paced folk stompers that don't take themselves too seriously. Their light-hearted lyrics and wonderful musicianship are smile inducing dance numbers.
OCMS' biggest hit was the unorthodox collaboration with Bob Dylan, which created the inescapable "Wagon Wheel." Dylan approached the band with lyrics to another song, "Sweet Amarillo," a welcome surprise. Far from a potential pop hit, this time they have crafted a cowboy song. It is a laid back track, with focus on harmony and pretty lyrics rather than speed. The juxtaposition is what makes "Remedy" such a great album; the guys weave flawlessly between breakneck bluegrass tracks and somber folk tracks creating an album rather than a collection of singles.
The post funeral track "Dearly Departed Friend" is understandably somber and the exemplary "Firewater" sounds like it could have come from a recent Trampled by Turtles release. They touch on ragtime with "Doc's Day," an ode to legendary musicians, and approach punk rock speeds with "Shit Creek," a wild track recalling Old Man Markley and Gogol Bordello. It is an interesting track that highlights the group's attempts to stretch their boundaries, while still staying true to the roots that form the base of their music. The album starts with a fun track set in prison and ends comfortably with "The Warden," a minimalist track that asks, "How does the warden sleep at night?"
Old Crow Medicine Show is a band devoted to bringing roots music to modern listeners. They honor their predecessors, while adding modern flair to their songs. In an age where country radio is full of bands using samples, rapping about getting drunk and stars that can't even play an instrument, OCMS are a welcome contrast. They are first and foremost musicians. They are artists who balance the lyrical simplicity of the earliest forms of American music with amazing instrument mastery. "Remedy" is simply a wonderful album.