I first came across this band while stoking an early morning fire at a friend’s home a few miles north of Big Sur. It was late summer, but the air was crisp and urgent a couple miles up Palo Colorado. Looking for a bit of a soundtrack to my pre-breakfast duties, I hit play on the CD player and a perfectly balanced ensemble of banjos, fiddles, a harmonica, and a stand-up bass rolled out of the speakers, their sweet-as-sunshine harmonies an almost too perfect compliment to the sea of redwoods rolling down the canyon before me.
I let the music play all morning long. From boiling water for fresh coffee on into peanut butter toast and bananas, the five-member Nashville-based bluegrass band was more than up to the challenge of kick-starting my day. The musical equivalent of an “old soul,” the Old Crow Medicine Show’s self-titled album played two full times before breakfast was over, their sound simultaneously reflective — reminiscent of what puts the blues in blue grass — and ear-to-ear grinning, foot-stomping fun that borders on punk rock.
After my attempts to steal the CD were thwarted by my absent-minded nature, I was thrilled earlier this week to “re-discover” this gem of an album sitting on another acquaintance’s coffee table here in Santa Barbara. Less than 20 minutes later, I had the boys blasting out of my truck speakers, singing along happily to their caustic tale of cocaine abuse in “Tell It To Me.” From there, I eagerly skipped ahead to the soulful, almost gospel-inspired “Trails and Troubles” before then hitting forward button all the way to album’s crown jewel “Wagon Wheel.”
I have since learned that O.C.M.S. released a new album this past fall called Big Iron World, but have yet to find one in a friend’s house, let alone hear it. However, if it’s even half as enjoyable as their earlier efforts, I reckon it is more than mandatory for people who like moonshine, walkin’ barefoot, and laughing on the back porch.