I wouldn’t have posted about The Swon Brothers’ cover of “Wagon Wheel” on last night’s episode of The Voice since I wasn’t particularly impressed by it, but for the fact that the performers and the judges incorrectly credited the song to Darius Rucker. I’m probably one of a thousand Old Crow Medicine Show fans who were shouting at the television screen as a result. Darius Rucker’s cover of “Wagon Wheel” has brought the song and Old Crow Medicine Show some welcome and much deserved attention, but if you have never heard the original (which is so superior to these covers it’s laughable), you are really missing out. Check out the original by Old Crow Medicine Show, and the inferior covers, below. Then check out all the Muruch reviews of Old Crow Medicine Show and you’ll understand why I think the Swon Brothers are mediocre.
The stage was lit with what appeared to be vintage glass baubles hanging from the ceiling and a ghostly mist rolled through as opening act Chuck Mead & His Grassy Knoll Boys took the stage. They gave a peppy, old-fashioned set. I loved their retro Spaghetti Western vibe and harmonies. Mead’s croons and yodels are from another era. They elicited a standing ovation from the crowd with a twisted song about The Andy Griffith show featuring a pot smokin’, moonshine drinkin’ Opie.
Old Crow Medicine Show then took the stage, launching into the title track from their 2012 album, Carry Me Back. From the opening notes they had members of the audience on their feet dancing in the aisles.
They ripped through “Alabama High Test” with flashing lights and roadies switching out guitars for harmonicas mid-lyric.
Lead singer Ketch Secor threw out a lot of love to “the Charleston skyline,” “the Mountaineer state,” “the KRT bus terminal,” “the Kanawha Valley” and “where hillbilly music comes home to roost, West-by-God Virginia,” which earned him a lot of love in return from the exuberant local crowd. It also helped they have local boy Chance McCoy in the band.
There’s no greater musical sight to this country gal than a string band huddled together jammin’. And it must be said Secor plays his fiddle like Eddie Van Halen plays his electric guitar.
The concert was comprised of newer material from the Carry Me Back album as well as some gems from their earlier works.
Most notable was the rousing fan favorite “Wagon Wheel” from their debut, O.C.M.S..The song was written with a co-authoring deal with Bob Dylan, and it is by far OCMS’ best known, beloved and oft covered tune. The entire audience was on their feet cheering and singing along for the duration of the song and the band seemed to pause after it to stare, soak in and appreciate the adoration of the crowd.
Despite my disappointment with 2008’s Tennessee Pusher album, Old Crow’s “Methamphetamine” was one of the most powerful live performances I’ve witnessed.
I had hoped to hear more from 2006’s brilliant Big Iron World (#2 on my Best of the Decade list and one of my all-time favorite albums), but they did play “Cocaine Habit,” “Union Maid” and a soul-stirring, harmonious mashup of “I Hear Them All” and “This Land is Your Land.”
Other highlights were “Mississippi Saturday Night,” “Humdinger,” “CC Rider” and “Big Time in the Jungle,” but it was really a fantastic concert from beginning to end. One of the best I’ve ever attended.
Old Crow Medicine Show have a rare mix of chemistry, energy and artistry. They masterfully bridge the gap between the downhome bluegrass (and blues) past and rowdy rocked up modern Americana. They built the multi-instrumental, multi-genre stage groups like The Low Anthem, The Lumineers and Mumford & Sons now play upon.
OCMS’ sweet backwoods harmonies and barn burning instrumentation made for a very lively, impressive and thoroughly entertaining show.
Though it must be said the true star of the show was the Grassy Knoll Boy I believe Mead called “Reverend Dan,” who popped back on stage to “buck dance” during Old Crow’s set. That dude had pizazz.
Chuck Mead & His Grassy Knoll Boys joined Old Crow on stage for encore duets of Mead’s old BR549 hit “Cherokee Boogie” and a concluding cover of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”
Unfortunately, Old Crow Medicine Show‘s morose previous release led to my neglect of their new album, Carry Me Back, when I received it last summer. Let me rectify the situation now by saying: Old Crow Medicine Show are back! Carry Me Back resurrects the foot tappin’, downhome style and wry country humor of their magnificent early works. Highlights include “Levi,” “Bootlegger’s Boy,” “Country Gal” and “Sewanee Mountain Catfight.” You can hear samples from the album here.
Old Crow Medicine Show‘s Chance McCoy is offering his debut solo album as a free, legal download. The album features nineteen traditional Appalachian songs, from backwoods foot-tappers to haunting folk ballads. You can access the mp3s by entering your email address into the Noisetrade widget below…
25. Muse: The Resistance
This is one of those albums that has classic potential, and I expect to move its way up the list as the years go by. A quote from my review: “Integrating classical and opera music into their theatrical electro-rock sound, Muse have created one of the most exciting song cycles I’ve ever heard.”
24. Gaba Kulka: Hat, Rabbit
It was difficult to narrow how Gaba’s releases to just one, but I think her latest is her strongest to date. As I said when I named it #4 on my Top Albums list, it is “probably the most unusual and creative album” of 2009.
23. Soundtrack: Once
The soundtrack to the Irish independent film Once features The Swell Season’s Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. I said in my 2007 review that Hansard’s “lyrics are deeply poetic, his music is heart-wrenchingly lovely, and his beautifully raw voice conveys emotion as if the man were literally ripping his own chest open as he sings.”
22. Antony & The Johnsons: Antony & The Johnsons
Instead of a best of 2005 list, I deemed it The Year of the Bird and that post says everything about how Antony’s music made me feel when I first heard it. While I Am A Bird Now was their more popular release, I’ve always favored their self-titled 2000 album.
21. Pina: Quick Look
Pina sadly remains my best kept secret. I discovered her in the early aughts when a French pal shared mp3s of “I Loved the Way” and “Bring Me a Biscuit.” I also love Pina’s 2005 release Guess You Got It, but the rougher edges of Quick Look‘s production fit better with her “Gothic folk” style.
20. Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson: Rattlin’ Bones
My 2008 review summed it up: “The flawless beauty of this album is almost beyond my comprehension.“
19. Hem: Funnel Cloud
I like this album even more now than when I called it a “nearly perfect album” in my 2007 review.
18. Damien Dempsey: To Hell or Barbados
As I stated in my 2007 review, the album is a “genre-hop through folk, rock, electronica, and reggae…but the genre gymnastics still take a back seat to the stunning quality of Dempsey’s voice.”
17. Anais Mitchell: The Brightness
My 2007 review said: “Like the greatest of classic literature, the compositions on The Brightness are the kind that softly seep through your skin and slowly make their way into your heart and mind before exploding in dazzling display of amazement.”
14. Xavier Rudd: Dark Shades of Blue
Xavier has quickly become my favorite male artist in recent years, and as I said in my 2008 review: “the astounding quality of his songs make me wonder if future generations might consider Xavier Rudd to be the greatest artist of this era.”
15. Mavis Staples: Never Turn Back
I’m almost ashamed not to put this at #1, because in many ways this is the greatest album of the past two or three decades. I simply don’t listen to it often as the albums listed below. I suppose this is because the weighty subject matter requires a certain mood. But as I said when I reviewed it two years ago: “We’ll Never Turn Back is what music should be. Gut-wrenching blues, earth shaking beats, hip swaying rhythms, deeply moving lyrics, and a rich voice that defies description.“
14. Luminescent Orchestrii: Too Hot to Sleep
I deemed 2005 “the year of the bird,” but that’s only because I didn’t hear Luminescent Orchestrii until 2007 when I said: “there’s a definite connection between their frenzied, violent approach to orchestral instruments and the punk cabaret of The Dresden Dolls, but neither description fully captures their unique and unearthly sound.“
13. Flogging Molly: Swagger
This album ushered in the Celtic Punk craze of the decade. There’s no such thing as a bad Flogging Molly album, but this one was definitely their best.
12. Vienna Teng: Inland Territory
In my review I called Inland Territory a grand “display of Vienna Teng’s brilliance, grace, and talent.” I continue to fall more and more in love with this album with each listen.
11. Kurt Vonnegut & Dave Soldier: Ice-9 Ballads
10. Mary Timony: Mountains
I had never heard of former Helium singer Mary Timony until a friend sent me this album shortly after its 2000 release. Mary’s unusual mix of Medieval folk, chamber pop, and indie-rock was unlike anything I’d heard before, and it remains one of the most strangely beautiful recordings I’ve ever heard.
9. Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band: The Whole Fam Damnily
My #1 album of 2008. In my review, I called it an “inebriating concoction of swamp stomp and backwoods pluck.” But in subsequent listens I’ve found myself drawn more to The Rev’s lyrics, which accurately capture the perils of modern rural life.
8. Allison Crowe: Live at Wood Hall
Oh that voice! Still gives me chills. I’ve posted about Allison Crowe so many times over the years that I consider her Muruch’s musical mascot. As I said in my 2007 review: “there’s really no way to convey through mere words how much the music on Allison Crowe’s Live At Wood Hall moves me” Forget Susan Boyle, Allison sang the definitive cover of “I Dreamed a Dream.” (mp3)*
7. Soundtrack: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Once More With Feeling
I always call it the “Buffy Musical” rather than its proper title Once More With Feeling.” Years before Dr. Horrible, Joss Whedon wrote a hilarious, poignant, and very catchy musical for an episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I don’t know how well the songs translate if you never watched the Buffy series, but I still love singing along to the soundtrack. The album features vocals by actors Sarah Michelle Gellar, Allison Hannigan, Michelle Trachtenberg, Nicholas Brendon, James Marsters, and Anthony Stewart Head. This is an example of why file sharing works – I and several friends burned our own soundtracks from mp3s recorded directly from the televised episode long before the soundtrack was released, yet we all purchased the official album once it became available.
6. Xavier Rudd: White Moth
I could easily include all of Xavier Rudd’s albums on this list, but I tried to limit myself to just two. My 2008 review said: “Rudd deems the album his “proudest work” and it’s easy to understand why.” But it’s really only been with repeated listens over the past two years that I’ve grown to love and truly appreciate its magnificence. And nothing speaks to the greatness of an album like having a panic attack when you think you’ve lost it and knowing you must replace it immediately. Fortunately, I found my copy!
5. Damien Rice: O
Unlike most Americans, I heard and fell in love with O when it was originally released in Ireland in 2001. My clothbound first edition of the album is a collector’s item now, but I wouldn’t part with it for anything. Rice seems to have faced some post-hype backlash in recent years, but that doesn’t erase the brilliance of this album. Most remember it for Lisa Hannigan’s delicate harmonies, but Rice’s use of strings and opera music were also very unique at the time. And the album as a whole has withstood changing trends in music over the years.
4. Fiona Apple: Extraordinary Machine
This is another example of why file sharing can have a positive effect on album sales. Remember “Free Fiona”? If you don’t, Fiona recorded a version of this album with producer Jon Brion and her label initially refused to release it. Mp3s of the demos were leaked online, the fans loved them, and a huge campaign called “Free Fiona” was launched in hopes of getting the album released. It worked, though Fiona re-recorded most of the album for the official release. I was one of many who purchased the album even though I had the demo mp3s. My 2005 review also shifted the focus of this site from simply sharing music to encouraging people to purchase albums. It has since become one of my favorite albums ever, and I hope Fiona decides to grace us with another release in the near future.
3. Soundtrack: Hedwig & The Angry Inch
Among the 2000-04 archives of this site that have been lost were my reviewes of the movie Hedwig & The Angry Inch (which I saw in a double bill with The Anniversary Party at a local film festival) and its soundtrack. Whether or not you’re familiar with John Cameron Mitchell’s awesome musical about a German transgender rocker, the soundtrack is one of the best rock albums of all time. There are thunderous punk rock numbers like “Angry Inch” and heart-melting ballads like “Origin of Love.” Why Mitchell continues to act instead of record music is a mystery to me.
2. Old Crow Medicine Show: Big Iron World
In my November, 2006 review, I said “I don’t believe I’ve ever said this about an album before, but I think Old Crow Medicine Show’s Big Iron World is just about perfect.” I stand by that statement. I’ve played this album more than any other released in the past three years, and only one band could keep it from the number 1 spot…
1. The Dresden Dolls: The Dresden Dolls
Anyone who knows me or has been a longtime reader of this site knows that The Dresden Dolls are/were my favorite band. My posts about their self-titled debut (and the live A Is For Accident album that preceded it) were also lost with early archives of this site, but I’ve raved every other Dresden Dolls release since then. After “Over the Rainbow”, The Dresden Doll’s “Girl Anachronism” is my favorite song and this is possibly my all-time favorite album. Amanda Palmer proves without a doubt that – in the right hands – the piano is the most punk rock of all instruments.
*mp3 hosted by & posted w/ permission of artist