8. Old Crow Medicine Show – Big Iron World

Okay, this is probably the most obscure record of the bunch, and these lists are nothing if not indie wankfests. So, some background. OCMS are five Canadian guys who supported Gillian Welch a few years back. Casey lent me a DVD of them once and I was won over. This is the second record of their’s that I’ve purchased. They play old time jug band music – banjos, harmonicas and bluegrass harmonies.

There was a time when I loved anything that was loosely country. That time has long past. This is one of two country records I got this year (the other being Drive By Truckers). But this is a truly special record. Spirited country music about cocaine, women and all manner of good ol’ sin.

It’s not an exercise in nostalgia…this is a record from 2006. Take the throughly genuis Cocaine Blues: “If you don’t believe that cocaine’s good/You ask Karl Rove and Elijah Wood.” Yes, the shadow of Hank Williams and Bob Dylan looms large, but it’s a modern tales with an old twang.

So there’s a bit of everything. There’s advice songs, like Leave It Alone, union work songs in Union Maid, and the lead track and first single, the gorgeous ballad Down Home Girl, recalling the kind of tunes Ray Charles might have covered on Modern Sounds Of Country And Western. So many of these sorts of bands are around and few make such eclectic records like these.

The highlight of the whole set is New Virginia Creeper, a campfire sing-a-long of train innuendo: “I’ll make a stop and slide right into your station/But pay attention/That rail gets hot” or just the simple chorus of “If you’d like to ride I’d like to ride you some more/I’ll ride you in my sleeper/I’m the new Virginia Creeper tonight.” It’s fun, it’s silly, it can’t help but win you over.

Simple songs, simple tunes and simple times. It’s the country album of the year.

Danny Yau

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