Old Crow Medicine Show signed to Columbia in 2017 and immediately delivered a raucous full-length tribute to Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde to the label. It was an appropriate way to begin the relationship -- Old Crow had their breakthrough when they completed Dylan's half-written "Wagon Wheel" in 2004, so this felt like a debt being paid -- but it also was a low-key way to move to a major label. In contrast, Volunteer, released nearly a year to the day after 50 Years of Blonde on Blonde, is a splashy beginning to a new phase in the band's career. Teaming with producer Dave Cobb, the hottest producer in Nashville in 2018, Old Crow Medicine Show broaden their sonic palette without abandoning their devotion to old-timey string music. Cobb doesn't push Old Crow in any uncomfortable directions -- the twanging electric guitar that underpins "Dixie Avenue" amounts to nothing much more than a splash of color -- but he is able to harness the energy of their live show, which is no small accomplishment. That much is clear from "Flicker & Shine," a steamroller of a tune that sets the tone for Volunteer: it's vivid and immediate, benefiting from the group's years on the road. Travel is an undercurrent throughout Volunteer -- there are plenty of songs about touring and returning home after weeks away -- which plays into how the album feels like it's in constant motion as it swings from high-octane fiddle tunes to plaintive ballads. Nothing here is particularly outside the wheelhouse of Old Crow Medicine Show, but the songs are finely etched and the performances vivid, elements that separate Volunteer from its predecessors. Here, Old Crow Medicine Show feel focused and fully realized, as if they're just hitting their stride after two decades in the business. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
- Genre: Pop
- Format: Vinyl
- Released: 4/20/2018
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