Highlights: Levi, Ain’t It Enough, Genevieve
There’s a great chance that had it not been for that song (which is every bit as ‘classic’ as ‘classic’ ever gets), the world would care as much (little) as it did before 2004. But since the world does indeed care, since Old Crow Medicine Show are among the most exciting bluegrass bands in business and since Carry Me Back sounds like the band’s greatest achievement, why not give it an honest, objective (subjective) review?..
Obviously bluegrass as a genre has a fairly limited appeal and what sounds fun and invigorating at a festival does not always translate into exciting studio releases. Plus, there’s no getting around it: a generic melody is a generic melody. All of the above are pretty much default issues I have with this album – and yet Carry Me Back is a fiery, brilliantly executed Americana delight. Old Crow Medicine Show try to bring a certain edge, certain roughness to this music, free it from its conventional bluegrass jail. All the instruments (fiddle in particular) are taken to their blood-raising limit, which makes you enjoy such (un)forgivable O Brother Where Art Thou? clichés as “Steppin’ Out” or “We Don’t Grow Tobacco”.
Still, Carry Me Back sounds best when it comes with a great melody, and both the elegiac “Genevieve” and especially “Ain’t It Enough” (almost “Wagon Wheel”-worthy, no less) qualify as sure contenders for the band’s future compilations.
In the end, what makes the album this good is the fact that a couple of ballads aside, it is traditional bluegrass played with an irresistible punk spirit, daring and defiant. For that alone Carry Me Back can be recommended to anyone with a passing interest in American music.