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Music / Old Crow Medicine Show

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Old Crow Medicine Show is not a Medicine Show. Known as "Old Crow" or "OCMS" to its friends, it is a band formed in 1998 with origins in Harrisonburg, Virginia and Ithaca, New York, noted for playing "old-time" music: a kind of music intentionally evocative of American Folk Music in the late 19th-early 20th century; they've also been classified as playing Alternative Country, Folk, and Bluegrass (a style so close to "old-time" as to be indistinguishable). They came to national prominence playing on A Prairie Home Companion. Today, they are one of the biggest bluegrass/old-time/etc bands in the US, and are credited with single-handedly starting a revival in old-time music. They're also loosely associated with Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings, who have a fairly similar style.

Oh, and I suppose we can't help but mention: Their Signature Song is "Wagon Wheel," based on a Bob Dylan sketch of a song, which has had an unusual amount of success and is now considered something of a modern standard.

OCMS' lineup (as of 2019) is Ketch Secor, Critter Fuqua, Morgan Jahnig, Cory Younts, Joe Andrews, and Charlie Worsham. Worsham previously recorded in the band KingBilly and as a solo artist, having had a top-20 country hit in 2013 with "Could It Be".

Their studio albums:

  • Trans:mission (1998): Basically a demo tape, self-published to accompany their tour of the then-tiny old-time circuit. Out of print.
  • Greetings from Wawa (2000): Also out of print.
  • Eutaw (2002)
  • O.C.M.S. (2004): Widely considered their first "real" album, as it was the first released on a label anyone had ever heard of and came out when they first found their national audience.
  • Big Iron World (2006)
  • Tennessee Pusher (2008)
  • Carry Me Back (2012)
  • Remedy (2014)
  • Volunteer (2018)

Tropes in their music

  • Cover Version: Besides covering country and older folk standards (both traditional ones and ones with identifiable authors like Woody Guthrie), they also like covering folk songs by '60s artists (they've done a number of well-received covers of Bob Dylan songs, and did a famous rendition of The Band's "The Weight" with Gillian Welch).
  • Driven to Suicide: Implied or at least contemplated in "James River Blues." The James River boatman, realizing that the railroads have made him obsolete, finds himself without purpose.
  • Intercourse with You/Double Entendre: "New Virginia Creeper." The Virginia Creeper is an old nickname for the Virginia-Carolina Railway. "I'll ride you in my sleeper on the New Virginia Creeper tonight," indeed! And it gets bawdier after that. (The song was written by Harrisonburg, VA natives Secor and Fuqua).
  • Lyrical Dissonance: O.C.M.S. as a surprising number of songs with upbeat tunes tend to have depressing lyrics and vice versa. Examples:
    • "Bootlegger's boy" is about a moonshiner who is turned outlaw after killing a prospective customer in a brawl.
    • "Brave Boys" is another cheery little ditty about a group of miners killed in a cave-in.
    • "Carry Me Back To Virginia" is, yet again, an upbeat, cheerful tune about a Confederate soldier who saw his unit wiped out, was maimed, spent time in a Yankee prison camp and is now begging for someone to carry him (or his remains) back to his family.
  • Ode to Intoxication: Most of their albums contain at least one song about drugs and/or corn liquor. Case in point, "Tell It To Me" and "Cocaine Habit." The similarity between "Tell It To Me" and "Cocaine Habit" is actually lampshaded (or something) on the album version of "Cocaine Habit," as Secor initially started into "Tell It To Me" before realizing the mistake (or pretending to) and launching into the song.
  • Protest Song: But never topical ones, or at least not strictly topical. O.C.M.S., for instance, contains "Big Time In the Jungle," which is their recreation of what an old-timey protest against the Vietnam War would sound like; Big Iron World has Woody Guthrie's "Union Maid."
    • There's a semi-exception in "I Hear Them All," which under the influence of David Rawlings has some references to then-recent events, but really could have been written any time.
  • Self-Titled Album: O.C.M.S., especially considering that it was rereleased as Old Crow Medicine Show when people were confused by the title.
  • Title Drop: "Let It Alone" on Big Iron World. Funny enough, that's a traditional number.
  • War Is Hell: "Big Time In the Jungle" and "Carry me back to Virginia".