Old Crow Medicine Show

Volunteer – 2018 (Columbia Nashville)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Old Crow Medicine Show

Dave Cobb produced "Volunteer" for Old Crow Medicine Show, and while word on the street was that this promised to be a more rocking, less roots music effort, such talk shouldn't dissuade fans of the group's established sound from checking it out. Sure, there may be a little more electric guitar than on past efforts, but this is still very much OCMS music.

While rock and roll is not the best term for these songs, perhaps rambunctious best describes some of them. It's certainly the best word for "The Good Stuff," a good-natured drinking song. The band even sounds to be getting drunker and drunker as the song goes on. The album opens with the handclapping, old timey "Flicker & Shine," sure to be a winning audience participation song in concert. "Shout Mountain Music" celebrates party music. It's the mountain equivalent to an all-night, neighborhood house party. It's difficult to believe the police would break up such a good-natured get-together, but the song brags how even the lawman can't stop this night of merrymaking. "Elizick's Farewell" is another upbeat track, and the lone instrumental.

The album speaks directly to being Southern in a few places. "Child of the Mississippi" says it succinctly, "Dixie Avenue" more festively and "Look Away" slightly sadly. The songs are placed back-to-back-to-back and obviously sequenced this way intentionally.

OCMS slows the pace down in a few places and nowhere better than on "Homecoming Party," a contemplatively sad song about coming home off the road. Instead of celebrating the finish of a tour, though, this lyric speaks about a painful return home. The group applies some especially beautiful vocal harmonies to this one. "Whirlwind" closes the album with a gentle-on-the-mind Glen Campbell-esque country song about taking stock of a well-lived life.

"Volunteer" is a strong OCMS effort with many memorable tracks. And to borrow the title of its closing song, it's all a bit of a whirlwind.