Written by Fantasma el Rey
Old Crow Medicine Show pushes forward with their third release Tennessee Pusher and from what I can tell their sound remains unchanged, which is a good thing. OCMS as their known have a great sound that has roots in country, blues, and folk; blend it all together and that’s what made early rock ‘n’ roll, people. And that’s the attitude these boys who met in New York and are now based out of Nashville have. Stomping at times with a rockabilly drive and pace while at others they slow and channel an Eagles/Bob Dylan style, mix in some Hank Williams and quiet country baritone vocals, and a good, true roots sound you have.
OCMS kicks open the barn door with “Alabama High-Test” a stomping rockabilly run combining Chuck Berry music (“Too Much Monkey Business”) and Bob Dylan-framed lyrical delivery (“Subterranean Homesick Blues”). “65 south bound/ cruising with a half pound/blue lights spinning round/ better put the hammer down.” OCMS looks at the vices and addictions of the modern hillbilly through an old black-and-white lens as the tune comes across like an ol’ country tune about the downside of drinking and fast living of a bootleg runner. Guitars twang, the stand-up bass plunks heavy, drums shuffle, something called a guitjo strums happily (I’m guessing a guitar-banjo hybrid? Sounds like a banjo to me, so…) and the slide guitar wails just the way they should at this sped-up pace giving us a tune to play over and over again before moving on to the rest of the CD.
“Highway Halo” sees the boys in an Eagles/Wallflowers (yeah, Dylan’s kid’s band) mood, a solid slow rocker with a traveling “Lost Highway” nod. Traveling and wandering the highway jungles down hobo roads as the harmonica moans through out, conjuring the spirit of Dylan and Hank standing at the dusty fork in the road of life.
“The Greatest Hustler Of All” slows further as OCMS looks west to campfires, stolen hearts, and the “hustling queen” who “stands about four-foot-nine.” The guitjo and guitar pick slow and low while the harmonica slowly weeps its sorrow at the theft of one’s heart. “Methamphetamine” continues this pace as the band runs down the list of horrors brought about by the use of meth. OCMS makes these types of songs and references work where other bands have failed because the delivery of the words used drive home a point in the phrasing and use with other lyrics. Listen for yourself to see what I mean.
“Next Go ‘Round” and “Motel In Memphis” are songs that make you think in two different ways. “Next Go ‘Round” is a slow country tune that pulls at my memory the way Glen Campbell’s version of “These Days” does. Reflection and looking back at a botched past and the fact that “in this life you don’t get no second chances.” Simple yes, but set up with the right tone and feel speaks volumes. “Motel In Memphis” is a haunting track that bends your ear to the events of “a martyred man” at a Memphis motel with strong lyrics about it being more than a man that died that day.
The titled track, “Tennessee Pusher” is one that can be looked at a few different ways and from a couple of different angles. Is it about the drug, the pusher, or a forsaken love or all of thee above, and how they twist, turn, and intertwine as they head for disaster? The lyrics are printed on the CD booklet and I still wonder, a tip of the hat to a fine writing style.
The rest of the thirteen total tracks work well and are very enjoyable. OCMS has many prominent influences from those mentioned above to Johnny Cash and Gram Parsons. I’m not sure that I’ll spin the whole album over and over again but the tunes I dig most you can bet will make my frequent playlist and burn their lyrics into my mind and memory. If you don’t believe me, hit up Old Crow Medicine Show on their Myspace page to hear some of the songs on Tennessee Pusher in full, the first single off the album “Caroline” is available as is “Next Go ‘Round.”