Old Crow Medicine Show‘s latest live album, Live at Third Man, is culled from a 2022 performance at Third Man Records in Nashville and largely replicates the track list for their last studio affair, Paint This Town. Tracked live to acetate, the process allows for no overdubs or start-overs. What we hear is what the audience got, and what they got, judging from this set, is full-tilt Old Crow Medicine Show.
You could make the case that Paint This Town marked another point of evolution for the venerable outfit—with Ketch Secor now the only remaining member from the outfit’s classic lineup—a move toward far more contemporary sounds than heard on previous studio outings. The titular cut, which appears here, was co-written by Jim Lauderdale and feels far more rock ‘n’ roll than virtually anything on previous Old Crow Medicine Show records. That isn’t a slam by any stretch of the imagination but rather an indication that an Old Crow gathers no moss.
Those looking for Big Iron World II or a second installment of Remedy might be disappointed. But what the live renditions prove is that Old Crow Medicine Show’s magic remains. Secor can still create a tornado of energy that radiates from the stage onto a platter and into the listener’s room. Readings of “Bombs Away” and “Gloryland” prove as exhilarating here, if not more so, than in their studio counterparts, and the poignant “Reasons to Run” is given a new depth on the vinyl-only release.
Other materials, such as “John Brown’s Dream”, “Used to be a Mountain”, and “DeFord Rides Again”, have eased their way nicely into the larger discography, and at least “Used to be a Mountain” seems poised to become a live staple in years to come. If a take on the Beastie Boys‘ classic “Fight for Your Right” stands out a little from the others, it’s no mistake, and it’s a subtle reminder that that piece has long passed into the pantheon of folk music.
The format in which this LP was recorded doesn’t allow for a deep mix or much in the way of subtleties. It is, in essence, a sanctioned bootleg. But that adds to the feeling that what the listener holds in their hands is a special artifact, one that Old Crow Medicine Show didn’t have to release but did because there was a demand for it, and if fans want to hear a nitty gritty take on “Lord Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise”, they should be able to.
The market for live Old Crow Medicine Show might be getting a little crowded at this point, with no fewer than three in-concert platters having made their way to market within the last ten years. Each, though, has retained its own character, whether marking a half-century of Bob Dylan‘s landmark Blonde on Blonde or highlighting spectacular performances from the Ryman. In that regard, there’s little indication that these are typical stopgap affairs, so each—including this set—is recommended without reservation.
Here’s hoping, though, that a new Old Crow Medicine Show studio outing is on the horizon and that it surpasses past output in scope, heart, and truth-telling. We wouldn’t expect anything less, now would we?
Editor’s Note: Old Crow Medicine Show’s new studio album, Jubilee, will release on 25 August 2023 via ATO Records. The first single is below.