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Old Crow Medicine Show appears ready

Berklee Performance Center, Boston, September 24, 2008

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Old Crow Medicine Show appears ready to take their brand old time-styled country music to the next level. After all, life's been real good for the Nashville-based quintet this week. They released a new disc, "Tennessee Pusher," a solid effort. And they just started a U.S. tour, which is playing bigger venues and selling out spots like tonight's 1,200-plus seat theatre.

The focal point is lead singer and fiddle played Ketch Secor. There is a bit of a Grateful Dead quality to the songs of OCMS, though they don't really fall into jam band territory. Rarely during their two sets (not exactly sure why they needed to split the show) did the band jam on and on and on. In fact, a good number of songs were on the short side. They mixed it up topically between humorous and far more serious matters, such as war.

It was this combination of sounds and themes and no one really being a stage hog that kept the show moving in the right direction. Secor is a solid vocalist as is acoustic guitarist/Dobro man Gill Landry. Less successful is acoustic guitarist Willie Watson. He's of limited range, but when he stays within that range, he's fine.

The new songs stand up well with Alabama High-Test the second song of the night. About half a dozen new songs followed, and the crowd didn't seem to mind one bit, standing for a good chunk of the show. It helps to keep it lively through Secor's often fiery fiddle playing.

Secor certainly knew the Boston landscape as he rattled off a number of local sites and cities to engage the crowd. And give the guy credit, he did not even mention the Boston Red Sox in a pandering sense once, an often tried-and-true cheap method of bands passing through Beantown to falsely ingratiate themselves with the crowd. He, in fact, mentioned the hated New York Yankees in one song. What he did do was introduce the band members as Red Sox of the past, and one wondered if the mainly youthful crowd even knew of the players he was talking about.

Whether OCMS deserves the high level of enthusiasm by the crowd is unclear as they're not so unique in what they do, but nor should OCMS bother questioning the support they have from fans and over think it. All they need to do is bring the energy, mix it up among the vocalists and styles, and they're on their way.

Justin Townes Earle continued his heavy touring schedule, turning in an extremely well-received opening set. Earle, who released one album on Bloodshot earlier this year and has proven to be a road warrior, performed as a duo with harp man Cory Younts, who added a tremendous amount of spice to the song played during the 35-minute set.

Earle sings well enough and alters his style sufficiently to keep it interesting. It's hard to say at this juncture that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, but Earle certainly possesses a lot of talent.