Paint This Town Tour 2022 Old Crow Medicine Show / Molly Tuttle
Old Crow Medicine Show
On their whirlwind new album Paint This Town, Old Crow Medicine Show offer up a riveting glimpse into American mythology and the wildly colorful characters who populate it. The most incisive body of work yet from the Nashville-based roots band—a two-time Grammy Award-winning juggernaut whose triumphs include induction into the Grand Ole Opry and double-platinum certification for their iconic hit single “Wagon Wheel”—the album pays homage to everyone from Elvis Presley to Eudora Welty while shedding a bright light on the darker aspects of the country’s legacy. Fueled by Old Crow’s freewheeling collision of Americana, old-time music, folk, and rock & roll, Paint This Town relentlessly pulls off the rare and essential feat of turning razor-sharp commentary into the kind of songs that inspire rapturous singing along.
In a major milestone for Old Crow, Paint This Town marks the first album created in their own Hartland Studio: an East Nashville spot the band acquired in early 2020 then transformed into a clubhouse-like space custom-built to suit their distinct sensibilities. “Over the years we’ve spent a lot of time and money in professional studios, but this was the first time we’d worked in our own place since back in the late ’90s, when we’d hang a microphone from the rafters and record a cassette on our TASCAM 4-track,” says frontman Ketch Secor. Co-produced by the band and Matt Ross-Spang (a producer/engineer/mixer who’s worked with the likes of John Prine and Jason Isbell), Paint This Town also took shape from a far more insular process than their past work with such producers as Don Was and Dave Cobb (who helmed Old Crow’s most recent effort, 2018’s widely acclaimed Volunteer). Not only instrumental in allowing the band a whole new level of creative freedom, that self-contained approach helped to revive a certain spirit of pure abandon. “Doing it ourselves was a lot more fun with a lot less stress or pressure, and because of that we were way less precious about it,” says Secor. “It all just felt less like a chore and more like a complete joy.”
The seventh studio album from Old Crow, Paint This Town opens on its title track: a raucously swinging anthem that fully embodies that joyful energy. With its fable-like account of the band’s carefree troublemaking over the last two decades, the track showcases Secor’s uncanny knack for packing so much detailed storytelling into a single line (e.g., “We were teenage troubadours hopping on box cars for a hell of a one-way ride”). “Our band has always drawn its inspiration from those elemental American places, where water towers profess town names, where the Waffle House and the gas station are the only spots to gather,” says Secor. “This is the scenery for folk music in the 21st century, and the John Henrys and Casey Joneses of today are the youth who rise up out of these aged burgs undeterred, undefeated, and still kicking.”
Although much of Paint This Town looks outward to examine the American experiment, Old Crow never shy away from the intensely personal. Written soon after the demise of Secor’s marriage, “Bombs Away” puts a devil-may-care twist on the classic divorce song, while the gently galloping “Reasons to Run” invokes the Lone Ranger in confessing to the emotional toll of too much time on the road. And on tracks like “Used to Be a Mountain,” Old Crow turn their lived experience into a lens for illuminating larger-scale problems affecting the modern world. “I spent about 25 years of my life very close to the region of Appalachia where strip-mining occurs, which is really dangerous work and destructive for all living things,” says Secor of the song’s origins. Partly informed by his memories of hitchhiking around coal country as a teenager, “Used to Be a Mountain” emerges as a galvanizing meditation on environmental catastrophe, boldly propelled by Secor’s frenetic vocal flow and firebrand poetry (“From the fat cats, race rats, big Pharma, tall stacks/They’re the ones digging the hole/All the way down to Guangzhou”).
In one of the album’s most potent segments, Paint This Town delivers a trio of songs that delve into matters of race and hate and systems of power, embedding each track with Old Crow’s vision for a more harmonious future. On “DeFord Rides Again,” for instance, the band serves up a gloriously stomping tribute to legendary harmonica player DeFord Bailey (the first Black star of the Grand Ole Opry, who was eventually banned from the show and left in exile). “One of the things that inspired that song was the experiences we’ve had traveling all over the world and seeing the people who take country music into their hearts,” says Old Crow upright bassist Morgan Jahnig. “It’s the entire spectrum of humanity—but when you look at the people making country music, it tends to be pretty monochromatic. If we really want to push music forward, we need to let all kinds of people have a voice.” Featuring Mississippi-bred musician Shardé Thomas on fife (a piccolo-like instrument often used in military bands), the soul-stirring “New Mississippi Flag” dreams up an insignia that truly honors the state’s rich cultural heritage (“She’ll have a stripe for Robert Johnson/And one for Charlie Pride”). “We’re living in a time in which there’s a great undoing of the mythologies that were created in order for the South to alter its view of itself, and with that undoing comes a repurposing,” Secor points out. Meanwhile, “John Brown’s Dream” unfolds as a swampy and smoldering portrait of the notorious radical abolitionist and his brutally violent attempt at rebellion.
Throughout Paint This Town, Old Crow bring their spirited reflection to an endlessly eclectic sound, spiking their songs with elements of everything from gospel (on “Gloryland,” a heavy-hearted lament for our failure to care for each other) to Southern highlands balladry (on “Honey Chile,” a melancholy love song graced with soaring harmonies and swooning fiddle melodies). That deliberate unpredictability has defined Old Crow since their earliest days, when they got their start busking on the streets with pawnshop-bought instruments. Through the years, they’ve continually breathed new life into their sound by inviting new musicians into the fold; to that end, Paint This Town marks the first album to include Jerry Pentecost (drums, mandolin), Mike Harris (slide guitar, guitar, mandolin, banjo, dobro, vocals), and Mason Via (guitar, gitjo, vocals). “We were auditioning new members during the process of putting the studio together—so if you signed up to be in this band, you got handed a paint roller and a list of songs to learn,” says Secor. As they got Hartland Studio up and running, Old Crow also launched the Hartland Hootenanny: an hour-long variety show livestreamed every Saturday night during lockdown, with guest appearances from the likes of Amythyst Kiah, Billy Strings, Marty Stuart, and The War and Treaty. “The Hartland Hootenanny kept us joyous during what could’ve been a very bleak time,” Secor says. “It helped us process the experience of Covid and George Floyd’s death and all the urgent cries for change, but at the same time we talked about full moons and football and summer camp—which in a way symbolizes everything we are as a band.”
Indeed, Old Crow ultimately consider that mingling of the joyous and the profound to be the very life force of their collective. “At the end of the day, we’re still just trying to stop you on the street and get you to put a dollar in the guitar case,” says Jahnig. “Then once we’ve got your attention, we’re gonna tell you about things like the opioid epidemic and the Confederate flag and what’s happening with the environment—but we’re gonna do it with a song and dance. We feel a great obligation to talk about the more difficult things happening out there in the world, but we also feel obligated to make sure everyone’s having a great time while we do it.”
One of the most compelling new voices in the roots music world, Molly Tuttle is a virtuosic multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter with a lifelong love of bluegrass, a genre the Northern California-bred artist first discovered thanks to her father (a music teacher and multi-instrumentalist) and grandfather (a banjo player whose Illinois farm she visited often throughout her childhood). On her new album Crooked Tree, Tuttle joyfully explores that rich history with bluegrass, bringing her imagination to tales of free spirits and outlaws, weed farmers and cowgirls resulting in a record that is both forward-thinking and steeped in bluegrass heritage.
GRAMMY award winning folk, bluegrass, country band Old Crow Medicine Show has announced their Paint This Town 2022 Tour in support of their album of the same name. The tour includes a stop in Cincinnati at Taft Theatre on December 29. Molly Tuttle will support the show.
ABOUT OLD CROW MEDICINE SHOW
Old Crow Medicine Show got their start busking on street corners in 1998, from New York state and up through Canada, winning audiences along the way with their boundless energy and spirit. They eventually found themselves in Boone, North Carolina where they caught the attention of folk icon Doc Watson while playing in front of a pharmacy. He invited the band to play at his festival, MerleFest, and the rest is history.
It’s been over twenty years since these humble beginnings. The band has gone on to receive the honor of being inducted as members of the Grand Ole Opry, and have won two Grammy Awards: “Best Folk Album” for Remedy (2014) and “Best Long Form Music Video” for Big Easy Express (2013). Additionally, their classic single, “Wagon Wheel”, received the RIAA’s Double-Platinum certification in 2019 for selling over 2,000,000 copies while the band’s debut album O.C.M.S. has been certified Gold (500,000 copies). The band’s latest release is Live At The Ryman (2019) which was released on Columbia via The Orchard. Old Crow Medicine Show’s latest endeavor was the Hartland Hootenanny, a variety show hosted on You Tube that featured music, storytelling, special guests, socially distanced square dancing and more.
Old Crow Medicine Show’s new album "Paint This Town" is now available via ATO Records. Order your copy here.
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