It’s for an American band. But hey, it’s from a local HB boy … Paul Paynter.

Here’s what Paul says about the Old Crow Medicine Show, a country/bluegrass band performing March 20 at the HB Opera House. [As far as I know, he’s not their manager.]

Heading north out of Atlanta, all I could find on the radio was Rap. It’s the testosterone metronome of urban indulgence and resentment. The unrelenting Hone Harawira vernacular was too much to bear and I was relieved on Route 365, north of Gainsville, when I entered another world.

To my dismay at the time, my radio became possessed by Country, Folk and Bluegrass.

This is a part of the U.S. that is not well known or travelled by New Zealanders. It’s the country featured in the movie Cold Mountain; the bottom end of the Appalachian Trail. It’s a remote and rugged place, where Eric Rudolph, the Altlanta Olympic bomber evaded U.S. authorities for more than 5 years.

The Declaration of Independence refers to ‘these united colonies’ and it struck me that’s it’s as true as it ever was. As you drive into the Great Smokey Mountains, you enter an eclectic time warp, into an old world of insular authenticity.

To call a something insular has such negative connotations. America is insular. Most of their young people seem to do their OE carrying an assault rifle, or not at all. But when it comes to art, insular is not so bad. Oscar Wilde once noted that England produced some of the greatest poets, because no one actually reads poetry. The wild rose in bloom does not need admirers to make it beautiful.

In all aspects of life, commercialism creeps in and mediocrity prevails. Italian food becomes Pizza Hut, the movies are soulless Hollywood remakes and the new musical phenomenon is just another Simon Cowell boy band. If you want an authentic experience, you have to look in the “out of the way” places.

The Smokey Mountains was that “out of the way” place in which I found Bluegrass and American Folk music and it’s worth getting excited about.

While the roots of this music might lie in Ireland, this part of America is a far cry from the cosmopolitan melting pot of Dublin. I can’t argue, there is something to be said for the hybrid vigour borne of melding musical styles. There’s also something to be said for sitting on the porch and playing a banjo, just for you and the critters.

This old time music has been brought to prominence by bands like Old Crow Medicine Show. Not since Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark has there been a band so worthy of an acronym. The young men in OCMS demonstrate the musicianship that is only borne of years of hard graft. At the core of their music you sense an uncommon passion to preserve and develop the music they love.

Hawke’s Bay is hardly a bastion for such fringe musical styles, but OCMS have courageously included Hastings on their current tour.

But before you think this might be nice folksy stuff you could recommend to your grandmother, I should warn you. These young men may have moved on from their snarling adolescence, but their themes still commonly include drugs, liquor and related misdemeanours. They are now at the peak of their talents, straddling the divide between tearaway youth and the seasoned craftsman.

They are not to be missed.

Paul Paynter

OCMS play the Hawke’s Bay Opera House Saturday 20 March.

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1 Comment

  1. What a delicious piece of writing…. and excellent preview of OCMS.

    These guys are top of their game as you say.

    I don't quite understand how they came to be playing in Hastings but I'm not complaining.

    They play with intense energy. If you like any kind of good music you'll love the show. Go.

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