(NoiseTrade) If you've been listening to Mumford & Sons' new album Babel on repeat this week, then here's an offer you won't want to miss. Chance McCoy of Old Crow Medicine Show has just released a free album of nineteen songs; it's his first solo recording, and it's a beautiful, rootsy collection of country and bluegrass ballads.
You may remember Old Crow Medicine Show from their song “Wagon Wheel” – originally an unfinished Bob Dylan tune to which frontman Ketch Secor wrote his own words. It's become a staple of modern folk music, having been covered by bands like Against Me!, Little Feat, The Menzingers, and Mumford & Sons themselves.
Marcus Mumford credits Old Crow Medicine Show as a major influence on his musical development, saying, “I first heard Old Crow’s music when I was, like, 16, 17, and that really got me into folk music and bluegrass. I’d listened to a lot of Dylan, but I hadn’t really ventured into the country world so much. Old Crow were the band that made me fall in love with country music.”
If you're skeptical that a band primarily active in the last ten years could offer such a strong connection to the music of the past, then one listen to Chance McCoy and the Appalachian String Band will remove all doubt. The songs are wonderfully simple, and reveal a steadfast dedication to the authentic sound of old-time bluegrass music. Many of them sound as though they could have been recorded a hundred years ago – except that the recording quality is far better.
Bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe used the phrase “high-lonesome” to characterize the sound of bluegrass. Listen to a song like “Gospel Plow” and you'll know exactly what he was talking about. It keeps arrangement to a bare minimum – banjo, guitar, male lead, female harmony – but it conveys an entire world of melancholy splendor. You can almost see the sad ruined farmhouses sinking into the dust and weeds of an Appalachian meadow. The lyrics tell of a preacher entreating his flock to stay on the true path of struggle and sorrow, and the narrator sounds both skeptical and resigned.
Other tracks are much more upbeat. “Twin Sisters” is a bouncy fiddle tune that highlights the Celtic origins of the bluegrass style. It's got that swirling, unwinding feeling that makes Celtic music such an enthralling experience.
The download comes with detailed liner notes from which we learn that most of the songs were recorded without overdubs, with the band members sitting in a circle all playing at once. Clearly, it takes highly-skilled musicians to pull off such an approach. These people are dedicated to their craft in a way that's become all too rare these days.
Chance McCoy and the Appalachian String Band is a window into another time. It has a raw human energy that's thrilling to behold. When it comes to price, you can't beat free, so download it now and let its sweet tones wash over you all weekend long.
Standout Tracks: “Gospel Plow”, “Little Birdie”, “Twin Sisters”, “Davy Come Back And Act Like You Ought To”