As fiddles and banjos have become increasingly commonplace in mainstream music, the spirit of a string band — one that’s predicated on a kind of pure, punk-rock joy — has often taken a back seat to a more earnest, precious treatment. But in Appalachia, that traditionalism was about skill, about a kinetic energy, about falling and rising together through the sounds of a washtub bass or some wailing vocals that are no more or less important than the instruments, themselves. It wasn’t always so morose. Life was hard enough as it is.
Old Crow Medicine Show, however, has always been connected to this raucous side; and their new song, “Flicker and Shine,” from their forthcoming LP, Volunteer, is no exception. It’s even about falling and rising, together. Though not a political song, per se, it slides perfectly into the zeitgeist of the moment and the need to rise as one to beat on as we’re intended. That’s what every life does naturally, anyway, as Old Crow sings: “All together. We fall together. We ride together. We wild together. Yes, all together. We fall together. Every little light will flicker and shine.” No one gets out of this world alive, and no one knows exactly how long our flames might burn. But Old Crow is right: We all burn together and, if we ride together, we might just shine a bit brighter. And we might have more fun along the way, too.