Old Crow Medicine Show Signs With Sony Music Nashville

ocms-blonde-on-blonde

Talk about a pleasant surprise! Today Sony Music Nashville officially they’ve signed the popular, Grammy-winning Old Crow Medicine Show to their label. They’ve been assigned to the Columbia Records Nashville imprint and have announced the release of a new album of Bob Dylan covers, 50 Years of Blonde on Blonde. It will be released on April 28 and it celebrates the 50th anniversary of Bob Dylan’s release of his album Blonde on Blonde. The group recorded this album live at the CMA Theatre in May 2016. It is already available for pre-order on their site and will be available everywhere for pre-order this coming Friday. They’ve also announced a tour supporting the album, Old Crow Medicine Show Performing Blonde on Blonde. You can see the full tour dates schedule below.

It makes perfect sense that this iconic roots group would be honoring Dylan, as the band has crafted two great songs out of Dylan chorus, the most famous being “Wagon Wheel.” The band really came onto people’s radars after Darius Rucker covered it of course. The bigger news here is a major country label signing Old Crow Medicine Show. Certainly not for a lack of a talent because they’re one of the best groups in country/folk today. Certainly not for a lack of achievements: members of the Grand Ole Opry, certified platinum status, multiple Grammys and a very popular touring band.

It’s that a major country label would actually sign them. Or perhaps not. We’re now seeing the effects of the rise of acts like Sturgill Simpson and Chris Stapleton. It’s forced major labels to pay more attention to acts outside the mainstream sound who sell and cultivate a major following. They’re still never going to get played on country radio. But they’re more relevant and sell better (both touring and music) than many on the radio. Remember Sony Music just recently also revived Monument Records inking Caitlyn Smith, an artist in a similar position. This very well could signal a shift in the way major country labels do business. We’ll have to wait and see.

 

MAY 2017
4          Santa Barbara, CA @ The Granada Theatre
5          Los Angeles, CA @ The Wiltern
6          Oakland, CA @ Fox Theater
8          Portland, OR @ Revolution Hall
10        Seattle, WA @ The Moore Theatre
12        Salt Lake City, UT @ Delta Hall at Eccles Theater
13        Aspen, CO @ Belly Up Aspen
14        Denver, CO @ Paramount Theatre
20        Knoxville, TN @ Tennessee Theatre
22        Washington, DC @ Lincoln Theatre
24        New York, NY @ The Town Hall
25        Boston, MA @ Orpheum Theatre
28        Cooperstown, NY @ Brewery Ommegang
30        Pittsburgh, PA @ Stage AE
31        Columbus, OH @ EXPRESS LIVE!

JUNE 2017
1          Cincinnati, OH @ Taft Theatre
2          Louisville, KY @ Iroquois Amphitheater
8          Chicago, IL @ The Vic Theatre
9          Milwaukee, WI @ Pabst Theater
10        St. Paul, MN @ The Palace Theatre
11        Kansas City, MO @ Uptown Theater
12        St. Louis, MO @ The Pageant

UK/Netherlands
JUNE 2017
24        Manchester, UK @ O2 Ritz
25        Glasgow, UK @ O2ABC
28        London, UK @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire
30        Amsterdam, NL @ Paradiso

The Current Pulse of Americana Music [June 11]

Bob Dylan Fallen Angels

Each week I will take a look at the Billboard Americana/Folk Albums chart and grade the top 15 albums. The grading format I use each week is every album will receive either a +1, -1 or a 0. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the current top fifteen Americana albums, with the highest possible score being a +15 and the lowest possible score being a -15. How do I determine if an album is rated a +1, -1 or 0? The rating it received on the site or myself will determine this. If it hasn’t been rated yet, then I will make the call. Albums rated between 7 and 10 receive a +1. Albums rated a 5 or 6 receive a 0. Albums rated 4 or lower receive a -1.

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the current state of Americana music and determine if it’s improving or getting worse. Let’s take a look at this week’s top fifteen…

  1. Bob Dylan – Fallen Angels (New to Top 15)
  2. Mudcrutch – 2 (New to Top 15)
  3. Chris Stapleton – Traveller +1
  4. The Lumineers – Cleopatra +1
  5. Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide To Earth +1
  6. Brett Dennen – Por Favor (New to Top 15)
  7. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit (New to Top 15)
  8. James Bay – Chaos And The Calm +1
  9. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – Self-Titled +1
  10. Tom Petty & Bob Dylan – Live On Air: Radio Broadcast 1986 (New to Top 15)
  11. Ruth B – The Intro (EP) 0
  12. Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color +1
  13. Mary Chapin Carpenter – The Things That We Are Made Of -1
  14. Bonnie Raitt – Dig In Deep +1
  15. Sawyer Fredericks – A Good Storm -1

The Current Pulse of Americana Music:¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The pulse is currently being reconsidered (see below). 

Albums That Dropped Out of the Top 15 This Week

  • Hard Working Americans – Rest in Chaos
  • Foy Vance – The Wild Swan
  • The Jayhawks – Paging Mr. Proust
  • The Strumbellas – Hope
  • Loretta Lynn – Full Circle

Albums That Entered The Top 15 This Week

  • Bob Dylan – Fallen Angels
  • Mudcrutch – 2
  • Brett Dennen – Por Favor
  • Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
  • Tom Petty & Bob Dylan – Live On Air: Radio Broadcast 1986

Thoughts

So I’ve been sitting and re-thinking this whole Americana pulse feature. One of the stark differences between this and the Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music is this is currently based on album sales and the other is based on airplay. It’s kind of unfair and unusual to base each on two different methods of charting. Not to mention album sales are a lot more unstable and harder to keep up with for a full pulse. I don’t want to put out a pulse each week where a handful of the albums don’t have a pulse because I don’t have time to hear everything. But at the same time I still want to do an Americana pulse not only because a lot of you are interested in, but I’m also interested in it. So I propose to you a slight change in course for next week’s pulse: How about instead I base it off the Americana Airplay chart, which I covered in the past before. I can do the top 20 or something like that for the Pulse. This chart is a lot more stable and will allow me to keep up with most or all of the albums on it. Anyway let me know your thoughts in the comments below on what should be done moving forward.

Album Review – The Secret Sisters’ Put Your Needle Down

Fitting The Secret Sisters into one genre of music is an impossible task. Their musical influences are vast, coming from an array of artists and decades. You may be quick to box them in as traditional country; after all, many of the songs on their debut record four years ago are covers of country greats like George Jones, Hank Williams, Bill Monroe and Buck Owens. However, their sophomore effort, Put Your Needle Down, shatters that little glass box and shows the sisters, Laura and Lydia Rogers, playing rock music, a little blues, Motown, 1950s style ballads alongside their country roots. The sisters also focused their efforts for this album on their original material, co-writing 9 of the 12 tracks, with writers such as Dan Wilson, Gordie Sampson, Brandi Carlile and they finished an incomplete song from Bob Dylan. Under producer T Bone Burnett, The Secret Sisters deliver a brilliant album to their fans.

The Best Songs on the Album

Laura and Lydia grew up singing a cappella in their church, and that history and practice of vocal harmonizing doesn’t go unnoticed here. The sisters show off a great vocal range throughout the whole album and they blend their voices together beautifully on every song, especially in “Bad Habit.” The sisters trade lines and verses throughout the song and echo the lines of the song’s outro. This is one of the few songs on the album in which they give listeners a unique, give and take vocal performance, and The Secret Sisters do not let that opportunity go to waste. The song itself is a well-written tune about an addiction. They drop lines that make it fairly clear that this addiction is to a man, but a few verse lines and primarily the chorus leave room for listeners to cast whatever bad habit he or she has onto this song. “Black and Blue” is another song that allows the listener to interpret meaning for him or herself. On the surface, is a song where a female laments over the idea of her man leaving her; she wants another chance from him. But lines like “I’m black and blue worrying over you” lead this reviewer to believe that perhaps he may be abusive and she may be submissive to that abuse. The song is written vaguely enough to allow for this open interpretation without taking away from the surface meaning of loss and heartbreak. Also the impressive Motown groove of the melody helps cover that potentially dark undertone of the lyrics.

In songs where the story is clear, The Secret Sisters drive that story home with their melodies. “Iuka” (which was recently performed on The Tonight Show) introduces us to a young couple in love. Her father is short-tempered and abusive and doesn’t want his daughter to marry, so the couple travels to Iuka, Mississippi to elope. However, the angry father chases this couple until he catches them and the sisters drive the point home with the lyric “two headstones for two lovers who finally got away.” Laura and Lydia cover PJ Harvey’s “The Pocket Knife”, a song about a young woman not wanting to get married despite her mother and suitor’s wish. It’s likely the situation in the song is an arranged marriage and the young girl in the song simply wants independence in her life. They sing this song with an angry passion that’s felt throughout the entire track. It’s worth noting the album’s namesake is a lyric from this song. Both these tracks have heavy, dark moods driven by screeching fiddles, hard-hitting percussions and intense guitar strums. The best part about these songs is that The Secret Sisters keep their perfectly harmonized vocals present in the midst of the heavy instrumentation.

The Worst Songs on the Album

There honestly isn’t a song here that I found bad or worth calling out for a lesser quality. Each song has its own unique value that it brings to the production as a whole.

The Rest of the Album

Besides their harmonies, the one other feature that stood out on this album was the percussion of every song. The tambourines and drums throughout the whole record are outstanding. In fact, the instrumentation as a whole is exceptional. The seasoned production of T Bone Burnett is felt in every song on Put Your Needle Down. They sing Motown (“Black and Blue” “I Cannot Find a Way”), blues (“Bad Habit”), rock (“The Pocket Knife” “Iuka” “Rattle My Bones”), country (“If I Don’t”, “Let There Be Lonely”, “River Jordan”); and The Secret Sisters sound natural on every track. “Dirty Lie” is the song that Bob Dylan had started years ago and sent to the sisters to finish. Laura and Lydia work with Dylan’s draft, and work their own voice into the lyrics to while intermixing their additions naturally to what Mr. Dylan began years ago. “Lonely Island” and “Good Luck, Good Night, Goodbye” are two tracks that have a 50s feel and are filled with more great harmonization and writing. After an album of mostly covers (and well done cover songs, I might add), The Secret Sisters step up to the challenge and establish themselves as artists capable of delivering great original content to a growing fan base. Most artists who undertake an album where they jump into four or five different genres may stumble and fall with the choppy nature of the tall order, but not The Secret Sisters. Laura and Lydia have the vocal gifts to effortlessly deliver authentic sounding songs in every genre they touch, matched with a great production to sell that authenticity.

Overall Thoughts

In the Rolling Stone article linked above, Lydia Rogers says if you can’t categorize your music, then you’re not following a formula or musical trends, which means that your music is truly something special. And that’s what Put Your Needle Down is; it’s something special. This album is a musical time machine, taking it right into the center of each era of great music and The Secret Sisters flawlessly execute every song, delivering a quality that could stand up with each genre’s best. This is no sophomore slump. Laura and Lydia prove their songwriting prowess and establish themselves a strong base on which to build a strong, promising musical future.

Grade: 10/10

 

Album Review – Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Remedy”

One of the most reliably great folks-roots bands in America is back with another album. Old Crow Medicine Show of course gained a lot of popularity a few years ago when Darius Rucker decided to cover one of their top songs, “Wagon Wheel.” It was an unfinished song by Bob Dylan that OCMS took and made into one of the best folk songs of the last decade. Rucker’s bastardized version of the song was hugely popular and has allowed him to cruise on this song alone for the past few years. Despite having to hear this sub par version of the song on the radio for over a year, one of the great things that came out of it was it brought awareness to Old Crow Medicine Show, including yours truly’s attention. Today I look at their new album Remedy.

The album starts off with the song “Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer.” I don’t think I have to tell you what it’s about because I think you can tell by just looking at the title. If you remember this is the second song of the year about Brushy Mountain penitentiary, as Matt Woods had a song and his new album was titled “With Love From Brushy Mountain.”  And once again it’s another great song about the place, with this one not being as dark themed as the first one. Really this song and entire album is the opposite of Woods’ album, as Remedy is overall positive and upbeat. OCMS’s signature folksy and Americana sound is certainly present. The second song on the album is “8 Dogs 8 Banjos,” by far the fastest country song I’ve heard this year. What’s amazing is how great the control of the band’s instrumentation is despite the fast pace of the song. This is a great shit-kicker that you can just sit back and enjoy.

“Sweet Amarillo” is the best song on Remedy and could be the “Wagon Wheel” of the album. It’s yet another Bob Dylan penned song, showing once again the great writing prowess of Mr. Dylan. It’s got a catchy melody with well-done instrumentation. “Sweet Amarillo” has Country Perspective Song of the Year candidate written all over it. I just hope Rucker or no other pop country artist tries to cover it. This song is followed by “Mean Enough World,” which is the second best song on the album. It’s about how mean the world is and how everyone needs to quit with their negative actions and just get along. Great message about how everyone needs to strive for peace and happiness. OCMS proves you don’t have to write about heartbreak all the time to make great country songs. This song just brings a smile to my face.

OCMS slows it down for the first time on the album with “Dearly Departed Friend,” which is a heartfelt song about losing a close friend. Think of it as a deeper, more country and less laundry list version of Lee Brice’s “I Drive Your Truck.” Don’t get me wrong I liked that song too, but this song feels more sentimental and personal. And the instrumentation is better. “Firewater” is a drinking song to listen to after having a long day. The term “firewater” of course if referring to moonshine. This is probably one of my favorite drinking songs this year because it’s not overtly negative and dark like other drinking songs I’ve heard. As it says in the song, “the firewater is the only thing that can put out the flame.” “Brave Boys” is another breakneck paced, toe tapping song.

The ninth song on the album, “Doc’s Day,” is a light-hearted song about an old man named Doc who heard the band playing and suggested they start to play music like in his days. As the song says in a great line, “If you wanna rock listen to Doc/If you want the girls you better pick like Merle.” Why can’t every band be as fun as Old Crow Medicine Show? “O Cumberland River” is a song you listen to while lazily floating down a river and enjoying a nice summer day. Bro country artists need to take notes with this song because this is how you write a song about a river. “Tennessee Bound” is an upbeat song about heading to Tennessee of course.

“Shit Creek” keeps the tempo up. It’s about losing a woman and as a result the man “ain’t got a paddle going up shit creek.” Once again OCMS makes a heartbreak song fun somehow. The fiddles are front and center in this song, which is just so refreshing because you hardly ever hear fiddles featured prominently in songs. The penultimate song “Sweet Home” is another feel good song. The album closes out with “The Warden,” which asks some intriguing questions about the life of being a warden in a prison. “How does the warden sleep at night”? “Does his conscious burn”? “Is he a prisoner too”? It’s a really clever song because no one ever thinks about what it’s like to be a warden and how they have to hold the keys to a person’s freedom. It has to weigh on their minds to work in such an environment where you have to look into hopeless faces all day. Well done on Old Crow Medicine Show’s part to sing about something unique and morally gripping.

Remedy has everything you want in an album. There’s a song everyone can listen to and connect with. Or just listen to and have a good time. Without a doubt, this is one of the top candidates for Country Perspective’s Album of the Year.

Grade: 10/10

To listen to the entire album, click here.