This weekend marked the much anticipated release of Old Crow Medicine Show’s seventh studio album, Paint This Town, through ATO Records.
The 12-song album, co-produced by Matt Ross-Spang and OCMS, consists of bandleader Ketch Secor, Morgan Jahnig, Cory Younts, Jerry Pentecost, Mike Harris and Mason Via.
The title track was released late last year with a video directed by Travis Nicholson.
Watch “Paint This Town” by Old Crow Medicine Show:
“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,” Secor said in a statement. “This is the scenery for folk music in the 21st century. And the John Henry’s and Casey Jones of today are the youth who rise up out of these aged burgs undeterred, undefeated, and still kicking.”
The release of Paint This Town finds Old Crow at a creative crossroad. The addition of Jerry Pentecost, a full-time percussionists, signaled a new creative chapter for the group which began with the exiting of Chris “Critter” Fuqua, a founding member, after wrapping its annual New Year’s Eve celebration at the Ryman Auditorium in 2019.
A guitarist and banjo player, Fuqua co-founded the group with frontman Ketch Secor in 1998. Bluegrass musician Doc Watson daughter discovered the band while its members were busking outside a pharmacy in Boone, North Carolina, in 2000. She thought her father would like their brand of old-time string band music and returned with him an hour later.
“Things had changed a lot [since the band’s last album, 2018’s ‘Volunteer’],” Secor said. “We broke up with our longtime manager. We lost Critter [Fuqua], who was our longtime banjo player. There was an opportunity to do two things: Placate the crowd and the team and just keep on doin’ it. Maybe switch to casinos, that kinda thing. Or reinvent it, reinvigorate it. And that decision coincided with callin’ Jerry.”
“That’s all I’ve ever done, is play drums,” Pentecost said, adding: “That’s part of the whole revitalizing … I’m real proud of the work we’ve done here. I think you can hear the energy and musicianship.”
“Paint This Town” definitely highlights a new percussion driven and upbeat sound, but the group continues to take on deeper societal issues like racism, drugs, strip mining and the Mississippi flag.
“New Mississippi Flag” is a moving ballad that explores the state’s complicated history with slavery, the confederacy, and the rebel flag.
After many failed attempts to overhaul Mississippi’s incendiary state flag, the global protests spurred by the police killing of George Floyd incited legislators in 2020 to take action.
Amid pressure from Black Lives Matter activists including the National Collegiate Athletic Association, Mississippi governor Tate Reeves signed a bill to retire the old flag and begin the process of finding a new design.
Mississippi voters approved a new design during the 2020 general election featuring a magnolia blossom surrounded by 20 stars against a dark blue background.
The new design, titled “In God We Trust,” replaced the state’s 126-year-old pennant, which incorporated elements of the Confederate battle flag in the upper-left corner. It was the last state flag to bear a pro-slavery emblem.
Watch New Mississippi Flag by Old Crow Medicine Show:
“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,” Jahnig stated. “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.”