Old Crow Medicine Show

Big Iron World – 2006 (Nettwerk)

Reviewed by Dawn Pomento

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CDs by Old Crow Medicine Show

Covering traditional songs is a risky proposition. Who can't think of a beloved local group that specializes in breathing life into old traditional songs - the more obscure the better? But not many bands make the leap from live performances of that kind of music to successful recordings, let alone transcend novelty to original interpretation. The proof that Old Crow Medicine Show can make it work is that the original songs here are the ones that stick in the mind and make the listener hit the repeat button.

This is the second full-length CD for the quintet and the first one produced by David Rawlings of Gillian Welch fame. He deserves a lot of credit for the immediacy of the CD, and he shares songwriting credit on five tunes.

But what comes through most, and no producer could manufacture, is the band has heart. With Willie Watson on guitar, Ketch Secor on fiddle, harmonica, banjo and bottleneck guitar, Morgan Jahnig on upright bass and Kevin Hayes on the guit-jo (a banjo/guitar hybrid), the band can cover decades of musical territory and distill it into a modern spirit. The mood shifts between the upbeat traditional songs, such as "Cocaine Habit," and the more pensive originals, such as the obvious single, "My Good Gal." And with Secor, Watson and Fuqua sharing lead vocals, there's plenty of variety in the sound.