22 September 2010
A fine evening of Americana, stretching out from a bluegrass base to driving blues, and even a spot of reggae. After a number of UK dates with Dave Rawlings Machine, and before heading off to the continent to open for Mumford & Sons, the Nashville-based sixpiece had the luxury of an evening to themselves – playing two blistering sets to a rightly enthusiastic audience.
The sound was rather muddy and the subtleties of the shifting backdrop of banjos, guitar, dobro and guit-jo were sometimes lost. On the plus side, Ketch Secor’s amazing fiddle and rabble-rousing harp always cut through, as did the band’s excellent harmony vocals. And the absence of a drummer from the line-up did not mean any lack of energy or drive.
Not all their songs are as memorable as their playing. But highpoints included 'Wagon Wheel' (probably still their strongest number, with many of the audience roaring along, word perfect), 'I Hear Them All '(now covered by Rawlings & co on A Friend of a Friend), and a fine and mellow 'CC Rider'. The first encore, Bob Marley’s 'Soul Rebel', was a daring shift of style and pace. I really liked it, my companion (as we reviewers are contractually obliged to say) was less convinced. She tutted whenever Ketch put his fiddle down – and the band certainly shifted up a gear when it was under his chin, bowing arm a blur. But it’s good to have some variety.
After three fully deserved encores OCMS headed off, looking forward to the Eurostar the next day, but muttering about ‘those damned Frenchies’ they’d have to deal with. And leaving us with a taste of Tennessee in our mouths, and an appetite for more…