On Paint This Town, Old Crow Medicine Show’s seventh album and first in four years, the band is back with some of their strongest songs yet, a bit darker, but all complex, compelling character-driven tracks that is the closest thing to having Springsteen lead a string band.
Co-produced with Matt Ross-Spang, the band recorded this one in their own East Nashville-based studio (bought and fixed up at the start of the pandemic). As strong as their last couple of records are, it’s clear the band took some time to rediscover the template that made them such an original, and fun band when they first started so many years ago.
“Bombs Away,” is the next great divorce anthem (right up there with Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way” and The Chicks’ “Gaslighter”), while the opening title track is a raucous, autobiographical song that’s as infectious as just about anything the band has recorded. Frontman Ketch Secor explained recently that it’s about trying to find fun where you can in a small town, but also serves as a solid look at the band’s philosophy for the past couple of decades, making music their own way. “Our band has always drawn its inspiration from those elemental American places, where water towers profess town names, where the Waffle House and the gas station are the only spots to gather; this is the scenery for folk music in the 21st century. And the John Henry’s and Casey Jones of today are the youth who rise up out of these aged burgs undeterred, undefeated, and still kicking.”
Elsewhere the band tackles race on tracks like “New Mississippi Flag” and the opioid crisis on “Painkiller. It’s that blend of powerful character-driven song writing and the band’s raucous sound that makes Old Crow Medicine Show such a wildly original group. And nowhere is that more obvious than on Paint This Town, a stellar modern Americana/Bluegrass record from the opening track to “Hillbilly Boy,” the impossibly catchy album closer.