Sometimes the most simple statement can sum up a career and all it entails. With the EP Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer, Old Crow Medicine Show have done just that.
Although they’ve been active since the late ‘90s, it’s only been recently that Old Crow Medicine Show have started earning the kudos they deserve. Fiercely committed to the kind of old-fashioned traditional string music that’s at the core of so much of what is deemed Americana these days, the band have never compromised their stance or acceded to the need to add modern accoutrements like so many groups do to embellish their sound. It’s somewhat symbolic that they were discovered by none other than Doc Watson while busking outside a pharmacy in Boone, North Carolina, given the fact that as one of the fathers of the form, Watson would know authenticity when he spied it. As a result, Old Crow Medicine Show helped spearhead a revival of banjo-picking string bands and even influenced a new breed of would-be folk outfits, Mumford and Sons and the Lumineers chief among them.
Their own history has been equally impressive, with five well-received albums to their credit and a hit record in “Wagon Wheel”, which was co-authored by the band’s Ketch Secor and none other than Bob Dylan. It’s become a standard of sorts, one that’s been covered by numerous other artists and even elevated into the top 40 courtesy of the version recorded by Darius Rucker. They’ve also become regulars on the festival circuit, having frequently appeared at Bonnaroo, Stagecoach, MerleFest, Newport, and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, all the while earning a devoted following in the process. Their guest appearances on A Prairie Home Companion, induction into the Grand Ole Opry and receipt of the prestigious Trailblazer Award from the Americana Music Association further testify to their role in returning traditional music to the fore of today’s country crossover.
While the four song EP Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer could be seen as a stopgap measure in some ways, it also affirms their dedication to the cause of making old-time hillbilly music palatable to the populace. Lead-off track “Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer” proves a worthy namesake for the set, a facetious banjo ramble that struts the virtues of some simple hanky-panky. “Done Wrong Blues”, the track that follows, offers another easy, breezy excursion into basic bluegrass and other back porch pleasures. “The Warden”, recorded live, sounds like a traditional tune in origin, but judging by the crowd reaction, it’s exceedingly well-received. That leaves what is undoubtably the best song of the set, one that ought to become a regular entry in the Old Crow Medicine Show repertoire, a humble ode to the Grand Ole Opry simply entitled “Mother Church”. Praising the tradition of the place that’s a true touchstone in country music, it’s at once defiant and nostalgic in the way it wistfully recalls the great music brought forth from the Opry stage. Anyone with even a basic awareness of what that place has wrought will feel the reverence in the song’s memorable and moving refrain.
Sometimes the most simple statement can sum up a career and all it entails. With Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer, Old Crow Medicine Show have done just that.