When I first heard Darius was going to do this song, I groaned. I like Darius just fine. Nothing he has done has ever really offended me, but nothing made me go wow either. He seems genuine in his transfer from soft rock to country, showing respect to the history of the genre. He has a good soulful voice, but the song choice and arrangements have always been a big "ehhhhh". Then, I heard Lady A was doing back-up vocals, I was pretty bummed then. Everything I said for Darius can be repeated for Lady A, except waaaaaay more of a "put me to sleep yawn" than just an "ehhhhh". Furthermore, I LOVE Old Crow Medicine Show, and this is my favorite song of theirs. OCMS has has some killer folk/bluegrass songs over the years, and have raised close to the top of my list of favorite artists. "Wagon Wheel" was their big coming out party. Although a little overdone on the club and karaoke scene, this song is still timeless and one of my very favorites. So, I begrudgedly tuned into Darius and Lady A's version to see how bad they screwed it up.
But then, they didn't. It's actually a pretty good cover. A cover is just what it is:a cover. It's not supposed to beat the original. It's not to replace the original. It's simply another take on it. I happen to enjoy this take. Darius slightly (slightly) pops up the song to make it a little less bluegrassy and a little more radio friendly. I happen to love the twang of the original, but I see the purpose. It is not a bluegrass single this time, its a pop country radio single, and they don't take twangy. That being said, it is waaaay more country sounding than most songs on the radio. The fiddle is loud and prominent, sounding more lake a mid 90's release than a modern country song.
Lady A does a good job providing harmony. This song is originally done by a band, so harmony is important. Lady A is strong when they need to be, and quiet when required. Like I said before, talent isn't their issue, it's song choice. This is a killer song, so they sound fantastic. The best part of this song (and where it diverts from the original the most) is the ending, where Darius goes all soul style on it while Lady Antebellum keeps the chorus flowing. It's a strong finish and really gets in its own little groove. I dare you not to hit repeat after jamming out to the ending.
Overall, this song serves its purpose. It's a solid take on a great song that A. continues to build Darius' "country cred" and B. promotes a killer song to a whole new audience. I hope to see "Wagon Wheel" hit the top of the charts very soon. Highly recommended!!!!
First, Darius's Version...
Then, the original by Old Crow Medicine Show...
Annnnd a bonus... Darius and Old Crow Medicine Show together at The Grand Ole Opry!!!