Reviewed by Henry L. Carrigan Jr.
The very best way - the only way, really - to see Old Crow Medicine Show is live. Like its namesake, the medicine shows of old that were part preaching, part snake oil sales pitches, part old time music and pure entertainment, the band delivers a high-energy performance that keeps the crowd on its feet the entire show.
This album includes the band's performances recorded between 2013 and 2019 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, and what better place than the Mother Church of country music for an old time traveling band to set up shop for a few nights. You can feel the audiences dancing, hear them shouting acclamation and see them swaying in their seats to Old Crow Medicine Show's rousing and rollicking sounds.
"Live at the Ryman" features OCMS' most loved songs, from "Tell It to Me" and "Bushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer" to the tune that's become their signature song, "Wagon Wheel." Margo Price joins the band for a skitter-across-the-floor version of "Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man," fueled by Chance McCoy's fiddle flights.
The band's version of "Wagon Wheel" captures the bereft feeling implicit in the lyrics, despite its joyous tune; Secor masterfully reaches out to the crowd's emotions with his fiddling and lead vocals. On the penultimate verse, the band turns the vocals completely over to the crowd, which knows every word, and Secor shouts to them: "You're singing at the Ryman!" "Tell It to Me" kicks off the album on a high note with Cory Younts' juke joint piano and Critter Fuqua's transcendent harmonica runs; the dancing-across-the-floor music leaves us breathless and promises a good time. The final song, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," delivers a rousing benediction with Secor blowing a mad harp, and with Charlie Worsham and Molly Tuttle weaving guitar licks around Robert Price's cascading run of bright pedal steel.
If Old Crow Medicine Show comes to your town, run, don't walk, to their traveling musical extravaganza. If you can't make it to the show, then cue this up on your CD player, and you'll be dancing and singing every song as if you were in the front seat.