Old Crow Medicine Show (from the album Tennessee Pusher) - It happened only a few years ago, in 2008. Old Crow Medicine Show released what could be considered, using the title as reference, their concept album. The string band version of a rock opera. In the capable fingers of Old Crow Medicine Show, it may not be particularly opera, but it certainly rocks.Tennessee Pusher was album number three for Old Crow Medicine Show. The background scenery was the hills and hollers of the mountains. Loosely based, the stories referenced the yoke that prescription drugs play in leading around people who are just hanging on. The characters in Tennessee Pusher are familiar and universal.
The drug infestations in the coal towns of Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee are obvious. There is nothing between the people and the problem. Unemployment and subsequent dependence on the system play a big role onTennessee Pusher, the theme weaving throughout the album though not the only topic. The stories range from questioning sides in the Martin Luther King assassination (“Motel in Memphis”), push hot food as a double entendre with a side of BBQ (“Mary’s Kitchen”) and envision the birth of an angel who walks all to briefly by your side (“Caroline”).
Old Crow Medicine Show has always had songs that went a little deeper than the traditional bluegrass songs that fueled the bands’ busking days. Beginning with their debut, O.C.M.S, the band has managed to support the tales with string instrumentation that stuck to tradition in its make-up and raised the bar with the way the instruments interacted, the more rock stance matching the story lines. Tennessee Pusher stuck to songs and characters with Old Crow Medicine Show taking on the role of minstrels. The guys are not a part of these stories, but thepeople and places are real, and their day-to-day lives come to life in the songs on Tennessee Pusher.
Though they are not the only fare on Tennessee Pusher, the tales that stick to the album title and directedscript are powerful and cast their theme across the surface of the recording. “Crazy Eyes” promises that “it will be all right if I can just get high”, “Alabama High Test” laundry lists the life of the man who physically moves the product, and the title track winds like a lazy river through a tale that questions exactly what is being pushed in Tennessee?
Weighing in at 4’9” is the lead character in “The Greatest Hustler of All”. The narrator lets you know he has been around and considers himself street-wise. In the blink of an eye, the hustler becomes the hustled. “Methamphetamine” is the song you carry with you after first listen. It demands attention with fringe-dwelling characters and a big sing-along chorus for speed.
Tennessee Pusher further cemented Old Crow Medicine Show’s place in the world of music, a place that they rightful belong in.