With the recent screen releases of Django and Lincoln, there’s a present interest in the history and culture of old-time USA. With a sound hauling more weight than the great Nashville train wreck, Old Crow Medicine Show came rolling into the Dublin badlands, equipped with the soundtrack of a barn dance classic.
On the evening of their first show, ahead of a short UK tour, a hefty breeze sweeps the streets while Vicar Street features a sell out crowd, anticipating boundless energy and good time spirit with a band that have made music for well over a decade. The old time-tunes launch with great pace and sense of story, getting every head a-swaying with songs like Carry Me Back, Alabama High and Take ‘Em Away. OCMS boasts an interesting variety of instruments, from the fiddle to the double bass, the guitar to the banjo, and even a hybrid of the two; a six-string banjo, known as a guitjo. You could not make it up!
Fiddler and Vocalist Ketch Secor, mimics the rock-famed back to back solo trick with Guitarist Chance McCoy, to which the audience responds with pronounced toots and yelps. “This ‘a good whiskey-drinkin’ tune,” Secor declares before transcending us to a dance night in Dixie land with Mississippi Saturday Night, from their 2012 album, ‘Carry Me Back.’ A few loose stacks of hay and no one would have doubted it felt like things were heating up in the barn dance contest.
The harmonies by the three lead singers, Fuqua, McCoy and Secor are beautiful, bright, and most notably, believable. These guys have a true spirit and although it may seem an act to some, it certainly is not. Secor proves himself a barrel of knowledge and laughs; he jokes with the crowd stating “you’ve got to play in tune in Ireland (while tuning guitar), you can get away with it in England, they’ve got ears like Cromwell.”
Before raising the roof a little higher, something which doesn’t cross your mind is the lack of percussion. OCMS use the crowd as their rhythm section; people struggle to stay in their seats, the beat is so infectious. And everyone stomps their feet, for risk of untimely expulsion. In what can only be described as an inspiring homage, the band play The Foggy Dew, a timely point to win over the remainder of those impossibly not yet convinced. In an even more poignant moment, the band dedicate Ain’t It Enough to Garda Adrian Donohoe, who was recently killed while on duty. The harmonica portrayed the voice of a deep sorrow; a sweeping applause filled every silence with unity, a crowd grateful for the condolence and thought.
Then, it arrived. Like that wreck on Dutchman’s corner, Wagon Wheel – the band’s breakthrough release of 2004. It turned Vicar Street inside out. Every word was sung; every foot obeyed the stomping beat, full shoe, over and over, till the rhythm invaded the hips and arms. The explosion of dance continued, ready to spill out on the streets with Cocaine Habit, Hard To Love and hugely impressively, our very own Dirty Old Town.
OCMS give rise to a joyous old-time sound carried well into the modern day and it sounds better than ever. As the cowboys famously said, a hog-killin’ time was had by all.