Old Crow Medicine Show
|Old Crow Medicine Show|
At 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. on August 2, 2012.
|Genres||Old-time, Bluegrass, Folk, Alternative country, Americana|
|Associated acts||Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, Mumford & Sons, The Felice Brothers, Justin Townes Earle, The Hackensaw Boys, Abigail Washburn & the Sparrow Quartet|
|Past members||Ben Gould
Matt Kinman[n 1]
Old Crow Medicine Show is an Americana string band based in Nashville, Tennessee. Their music has been called old-time, bluegrass, folk, and alt-country. Along with original songs, the band performs many pre-World War II blues and folk songs. Recording since 1998, they were discovered by famed bluegrass musician Doc Watson while busking outside a pharmacy in Boone, North Carolina in 2000. They have released four studio albums—O.C.M.S. (2004), Big Iron World (2006), Tennessee Pusher (2008), and Carry Me Back (2012). Their song "Wagon Wheel", written by frontman Ketch Secor through a co-authoring arrangement with Bob Dylan, was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America in April 2013 and has been covered by a number of acts, including Darius Rucker, who made the song a top 40 hit.
The music documentary Big Easy Express, directed by Emmett Malloy, in which the band was featured along with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Mumford and Sons on The Railroad Revival Tour across the U.S. in 2011, won a Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video in 2013. They appeared at the Stagecoach Festival 2013 and multiple times at other major festivals, e.g., Bonnaroo Music Festival, MerleFest,:2000:2004:2008 Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival,:2004:2009 and Newport Folk Festival.
With an old-time string sound, fueled by punk rock energy, they have influenced acts like Mumford & Sons and contributed to a revival of banjo-picking string bands playing Americana music—leading to variations on it. They make frequent guest appearances on A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor.
Ketch Secor and Critter Fuqua first met in the seventh grade in Harrisonburg, Virginia in Rockingham County, and began playing music together, all because as Secor puts it: "Critter and I were in a 'Red Badge of Courage' skit in the seventh grade and recognized in one another a passion for making music and being on a stage." They performed open mics at the Little Grill diner, which was "really the first chance that...Critter had to play on stage." Being "a bit younger than the college students at James Madison University who typically hung out there," Secor was considered a townie. As Secor says today, "They knew that we had talent, but it was raw. I mean, I was up there beating on a jaw harp when I was 13."
It was at Little Grill that Secor first saw his "contemporary", Robert St. Ours, who later went on to found The Hackensaw Boys. St. Ours "was so cool with his leather jacket and side burns. I knew that's what I wanted to do," says Secor. His early influences also included "driving up to Mt. Jackson, VA to the bluegrass Saturday night in the summer. And going up to Davis and Elkins College to participate in the Old Time Music week there, and meeting guys like Richie Stearns." Secor formed the Route 11 Boys with St. Ours and his brothers and performed often at Little Grill.
Willie Watson first met Ben Gould in high school in Watkins Glen, New York (Schuyler County), and began playing music together. Both Watson and Gould dropped out of school and formed the band The Funnest Game.[n 2] Their brand of electric/old-time was heavily influenced by the old-time music scene prominent in Tompkins and Schuyler County, New York, including The Horse Flies and The Highwoods Stringband. Performing locally, the young band earned the respect of their local old-time heroes and gained a following, appearing weekly at the Rongovian Embassy with Richie Stearns and annually at the Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance in Trumansburg, New York.
Fuqua, school friend and future bandmate, first brought home a Bob Dylan bootleg from a family trip to London containing a rough outtake called "Rock Me, Mama" (from the "Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid" soundtrack sessions) and passed it to Secor. Not "so much a song as a sketch, crudely recorded featuring most prominently a stomping boot, the candy-coated chorus and a mumbled verse that was hard to make out", the tune kept going through Secor's mind. A few months later, while attending school in New Hampshire, and "feeling homesick for the South," he added verses about "hitchhiking his way home full of romantic notions put in his head by the Beat poets and, most of all, Dylan." Dylan was a major influence on the young musician, as he puts it:
"I listened to Bob Dylan and nothing else. Nothin' but Bob for four years. It was like schooling. Every album and every outtake of every album and every live record I could get my hands on and every show I could go see live. I was a teenager who was really turned on to Bob."
The song would be an early entry in the group's catalog when it formed a few years later. Officially released twice, on an early EP and their second album ("O.C.M.S." in 2004), the song would become the group's signature song—going gold in 2011 and platinum in 2013.
After Secor finished his schooling at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, where he learned to play the banjo, he spent a year taking short musician-hobo jaunts up to Maine and Canada from his home in Harrisonburg. "I had just read the book, Bound for Glory, and I knew that I wanted to go hobo with music. So we went out on the road . ." He discovered New Brunswick in 1997, getting a gig at Daigle's Pub the very night he arrived there. As he describes the trip . .
"I met some kids who were going to Great Big Sea, so we drove there, and I busked in Moncton and then Shediac, to Miramichi where I met a spoons player, and stayed at his houseboat, and then up to Madawaska . . I stayed at the Salvation Army in Saint John and met an old fiddler, Fiddlin' Joe, and we busked together. He had played with Don Messer. Then I went to Oromocto and met some Micmac people, and some Maliseets."
His music went over well in the province. He detected a desire to hear the old-time sounds, seeing a common language between the Southern U.S. style, the Miramichi folk songs, Acadian music, and Celtic and fiddle tunes. It was an epic trip that led directly to the later formation of the band . .
"It was integral to what I became, to wanting to start Old Crow Medicine Show, to bring that old-time music to the fore . . I saw (Acadian stars) 1755, and heard them do a great song, Le Monde a Bien Change . . . When I listen to 1755 . . there's a definite connection. There's a pan-national movement to it . . The cause we share is trying desperately to stay connected to something. Let's pass along folklore, let's pass along tradition. Let's be North American."
Upstate New York and beyond
After the breakup of the Route 11 Boys, Secor attended Ithaca College in order to be closer to the girl:5 he'd met at Phillips Exeter (who was attending Cornell). He brought Fuqua up to New York State, where they met Willie Watson through mutual friend Richie Stearns. Watson dissolved The Funnest Game and they assembled "a whole bunch of these players all around Ithaca, New York, where there is a very lively old-time music scene."[n 3] Secor "dragged in a guy", Kevin Hayes, whom he'd "met on the streets of Bar Harbor, Maine" where Secor was playing banjo "on the street in front of a jewelry store.":5 They gathered in Critter's bedroom to record an album that they could sell on the road—a cassette of ten songs called Trans:mission. Fuqua says of the influence of that region . .
'Ithaca and that surrounding area was a big influence on us. We wouldn’t be here without a lot of the people we met there, like Richie Stearns, the Red Hots and Mac Benford. All those old-time banjo players brought the music from the South back up to New York, and it was kind of a hotbed.'
When the girl Ketch was chasing "dumped him",[n 4] the fledgling group left Ithaca for their Trans:mission tour in October 1998. They busked their way west across Canada and circled back east again in the Spring of 1999 when they moved into an old white farmhouse on Beech Mountain, right outside of Boone, North Carolina, "...with a chicken coop, goats, and a tobacco field out back that they could work for cash." Studying from the Foxfire guides, they grew their own food and made their own corn liquor. They were embraced immediately by the Appalachian community, and their repertoire of old-time songs grew exponentially as they played with local musicians."
When former Route 11 Boys bandmate Robert St. Ours met fellow musicians Rob Bullington, Tom Peloso, and David Sickmen—to celebrate the latter's birthday—in August 1999 at Miller's[n 5] restaurant in Charlottesville to watch newly-formed Old Crow perform there, the four decided to form a new group together. Sickmen and Peloso had previously been talking about other possible music projects, but the group they decided to form that night would become The Hackensaw Boys—who also develop its sound busking on the streets, but those of Virginia. The three St. Ours brothers who'd originated the Route 11 Boys in Harrisonburg all contributed to the self-produced album Greetings from Wawa (2000). Phillip St. Ours would share washboard duties between Hackensaw and Old Crow in the early years, and the two groups performed together in Charlottesville when the latter came through town.
One day the group were busking outside a pharmacy called Boone Drug—"playing on Doc’s old corner" where he'd "started playing in the 1950s" on King Street in Boone, North Carolina—when the daughter of folk-country legend Doc Watson (d. May 29, 2012) heard them.[n 6] Certain her father would be impressed, she led the blind musician over for a listen. The group "struck up 'Oh My Little Darling', a well-known old-time song they thought Doc would like." When they finished, he said: "Boys, that was some of the most authentic old-time music I've heard in a long while. You almost got me crying." Doc invited the band to participate in his annual MerleFest music festival[n 7] in Wilkesboro, North Carolina (for 2000).:2000 As Secor puts it:
"Doc grew up playing on street corners and we played on the same street corners he did when we were first starting out in 1999. Doc came up to us while we were playing and offered us a job playing MerleFest. That gig changed our lives and we look to it as a pivotal turning point as Old Crow Medicine Show.
Fuqua and Secor have written a song "about Doc Watson. About being on the corner in Boone and him discovering us. It honors Doc and the high country blues sound."
Grand Ole Opry
The big busking break led to the act's relocation to Nashville in October 2000.[n 8] At MerleFest, Secor explains, Sally Williams "from the Grand Ole Opry . . invited us to participate in some summer music events at the Grand Ole Opry House doing our street act, our busking, and that’s why we came to Nashville . ." Williams first booked them for "an Opryland Plaza outdoor show." In Nashville they were "embraced and mentored" by Marty Stuart, the president of the Grand Ole Opry, who first spied the group at the Nashville-area Uncle Dave Macon Days festival and added them to his "Electric Barnyard old-fashioned country variety package show bus tour" with acts like Merle Haggard, Connie Smith, and BR5-49. Soon they were opening for "everyone from Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton to Ricky Skaggs and Del McCoury . ."
A "random occurrence on a street corner changed (the) career path" of Morgan Jahnig,[n 9]—who was born and raised in Chattanooga.:7 On the way to dinner with his father in Nashville, he was "drawn to a group of street musicians." Says Jahnig: "About a year later they called me and said they were returning to Nashville and had just lost their bass player.[n 10] They were kind of hard up and were still playing on street corners at the time." Since 2001, Jahnig has been the regular bassist for Old Crow.
The group made their Grand Ole Opry debut at the Ryman Auditorium, "The Mother Church of Country Music", in January 2001. Given just four minutes on stage, they played their original "Tear It Down"—a "singing jug-band romp about punishing infidelity"—and received a "rare first-time-out standing ovation, and a call for an encore." Shortly after their Opry appearance, the group signed with Bobby Cudd at Monterey Peninsula Artists,[n 11] who also represented Robert Earl Keen, the Dave Matthews Band, Chris Isaak, Aerosmith, and Fiona Apple. They went on their "first real tour" May 2001, opening for the Del McCoury band.
Welch and Rawlings
Secor was first "made aware" of Gillian Welch and her longtime songwriting partner and guitarist David Rawlings, when they opened for David Grisman at a show in New Hampshire, while still in high school. Old Crow first made themselves known to the duo on "January the 12th of 2001, when we made our Grand Old Opry debut at the Ryman. They were listening to it on the radio.":3 When they first met at the Station Inn in Nashville—where the group's "lively monthly shows" had become "a hot ticket among the young and in-the-know"—they "stayed up till dawn singing Stan Rogers songs and playing AC/DC licks." Three weeks later they were making a record. For Old Crow, Welch and Rawlings "were that rusted sign at the fork in the road showing OCMS just where it was headed."
Here the link in the chain of Appalachian old-time music tradition—down from the hills, fueled by punk, youthfully modernized—represented by Old Crow—hooked into the link in the chain forged by Welch — her traditional music credentials legitimized and her career boosted, together with the relaunch of the entire old-time/bluegrass music industry, by her participation on the O Brother, Where Art Thou (2000) soundtrack,—launched simultaneously with the group forming. As Frank Goodman of Puremusic.com saw the dynamic intersection of these forces[n 12] . .
"Bluegrass got an incredible bump from the O Brother phenomenon, but Old Time and String Band music received one as well . . But, like Nickel Creek or Allison Krauss and Union Station, it really needed one good looking great sounding group to step up to the mic and kick everybody's ass. And here they are. The Old Crow Medicine Show.":1
Rawlings would later produce their first two studio albums Old Crow Medicine Show (or O.C.M.S, 2004) and Big Iron World (2006).
They made their national television debut on CMT's Grand Ole Opry Live in 2002. They sang and picked "the mountain reel 'Hard To Love'" in the 2003 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, "riding the new float from the Peeps marshmallow company." In April 2003 they recorded their LIVE album at the Station Inn in Nashville, where they'd developed an avid following with regular shows. "Most of the album is in the band’s high-energy, fiddle-driven, breakneck-speed twang mode," says Barry Mazor of No Depression, but the "handful of originals", including Secor’s "Can’t Get Right Blues" and Watson’s "Trouble That I’m In", are "in a party time jug-band blues mode."
Appearances at the 2003 South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin—a "scene" that's "all about getting behind young artists", as Secor puts it—led to the group being signed by Nettwerk,:2 securing their recording future for the next several years. Their first Nettwerk offering, Old Crow Medicine Show in 2004 (popularly known as O.C.M.S.), was produced by Rawlings and mixes "old blues and jug band music with originals that fit smoothly into the tradition"—including the Fuqua "Take ’em Away"[n 13] and Secor "Wagon Wheel".[n 14] More than 100,000 copies of O.C.M.S. were sold, behind a "rigorous tour schedule and a memorable live show"; what CMT regarded as "an impressive number for a new band that didn't know much about record deals and everything that goes with it."
Big Iron World (2006), another Rawlings production, added a sense of urgency on new songs like "I Hear Them All". They recorded Tennessee Pusher (2008) in Hollywood with producer Don Was, "rocking harder" with "Alabama High Test" and "Methamphetamine". Secor says the band "figured they'd take some leftover material from the first album, add a few traditional songs and suddenly have a new record." But, he says . .
". . it wasn't that easy. Pretty soon, after we realized that that wasn't going to work that way, the gods up above started sending down some lightning bolts of good music and we were able to collect some new material—write some and craft some—that has made the record what it is."
Starting with an appearance on radio show A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor in 2004  they've had a recurring engagement with the show, including several appearances in the show's home state of Minnesota and special live shows—including the Hollywood Bowl and a New Year's Eve show at the Ryman. They've participated in three of the show's Cinecasts, all from the Fitzgerald Theater in Saint Paul, "seen on movie screens across North America."
The Big Surprise Tour
Named for The Felice Brothers song "The Big Surprise" (opening track from their Yonder Is the Clock album on Team Love Records), The Big Surprise Tour featuring Old Crow, Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings, the Felice Brothers, and Justin Townes Earle kicked off in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire August 2009. The "nine-stop tour" included shows in Knoxville, Nashville, Boston, New York and Philadelphia—and "mark(ed) the first major showcasing of the Dave Rawlings Machine." Having "performed and recorded since 1996 as the acoustic duo known as 'Gillian Welch,' with Rawlings on guitar, on this tour he would "carry the lead vocals" with Welch playing rhythm guitar as "a member of the band." "It’s a lot like the Gillian Welch show," Rawlings joked "but with a worse lead singer."
The tour continued the tradition of the Sweet Harmony Traveling Revue "which followed a similar path five years" previously with "core headliners on that package" being: Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin, and Welch—but with "a fundamentally different character". As Welch "observed between songs" at New York's Beacon Theatre show: "Did you notice there’s an awful lot of dude energy up here? I’m doing everything in my power to counterbalance it." As Secor framed it:
"Shows will be composed of two 90-minute sets broken up by an intermission. In a free form ramshackle flow the bands and artists will share the stage, taking part in each other’s songs, resurrecting old standards, and playing newly written collaborative material as they go. Each evening is sure to be a unique experience as they all put their many combined years of musicianship and knowledge of song-craft and American music into play for these sessions."
"What happens will be a big surprise to us as well; that’s gonna be part of the fun,” as Secor stated. Earle was backed during the tour by the harmonica- and mandolin-playing of Cory Younts, who joined Old Crow within months on their "western tour" while Earle was on tour in Australia.
Railroad Revival Tour
In April 2011 the group joined Mumford and Sons and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros on The Railroad Revival Tour, a tour inspired by the Festival Express tour across Canada in 1970 that included Buddy Guy, Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, and The Band. Traveling exclusively in vintage rail cars, the three bands performed in six "unique outdoor locations" over the course of a week starting in Oakland, California. Secor told American Songwriter that "It’s like we left all our baggage at home and just brought our instruments," often writing new songs while on the train. "We were just on these old rattling rails. It was a railroad odyssey that would have made Woody and Doc tip their hats and blow their whistles," he says. They appear in the musical documentary Big Easy Express, directed by Emmett Malloy, being made of the trip which premiered March 2012 at the South by Southwest Film Conference and Festival (SXSW Film) in Austin, Texas—winning the Headliner Audience Award.
Old Crow Medicine Show announced in August 2011 that the group would be on hiatus until further notice. Three scheduled shows for September 2011 were cancelled, and "up into 2012 there was little word from the band on whether there would continue to be a band." Original member Willie Watson, guitarist and lead vocalist for the group, left in the Fall (a couple months before Fuqua's return) "to pursue a solo career in Los Angeles."
Recording of the group's next album had been largely done before the break. Essentially "everyone took about a year off from the band." Perhaps a breaking point had been reached:
"Exhaustion from three years on the road, fighting and creative differences was a salient signpost to premature oblivion."—Dave Dawson, NU Country TV
Founding member Fuqua rejoined the group in January 2012, after leaving in 2004 "initially leaving to go to rehab for his drinking, then staying out to attend college." While away from the band he "managed to get three-quarters of the way to a bachelor’s degree" in English at Schreiner University in Kerrville, Texas—named for "Captain Charles Schreiner, a Texas Ranger and Confederate veteran who founded the school"—where he "couldn’t help but learn a thing or two from his classmates about the real-world impact of the music he’d helped create" . .
Fuqua first reappeared with former bandmate/group co-founder Secor November 20, 2011 at the fourth anniversary Tokens, a "live radio variety show" at Ryman Auditorium to benefit Room in the Inn, "a program that provides meals and shelter to Nashville’s homeless." That episode, "Nashville's New 'Old-Time Radio' Experience", also featured Mike Farris and the Roseland Rhythm Revue and the Nashville Choir. Show creator Lee Camp, professor of theology at Lipscomb University, was "particularly pleased to have Ketch Secor on the show, given that the idea for Tokens" hit him years previously when watching Garrison Keillor of A Prairie Home Companion "ring in the New Year at the Ryman, and Old Crow Medicine Show was one of Keillor’s guests."
Secor and Fuqua began playing tour dates January 2012 as The Ketch & Critter Show, including a benefit show at Little Grill Collective:4b where their performing careers began. Proceeds of this benefit performance went to Our Community Place, for whom Secor recorded his original Christmas song "Send No Angels" for the fundraising album Our Christmas Present in 2008. Fuqua needed this time to get his chops back . .
Norm Parenteau, "band manager for 10 years" reflected in August 2012: "We didn't know if there was going to be a future of Old Crow about a year ago. It was just hard. But Critter just revived it." Raymond E. Lee of Surviving.the.Golden.Age states, referring to group album Carry Me Back (2012): "For long time listeners, Willy Watson’s high lonesome vocals are sorely missed." For Secor . .
'You can't always stay the same forever . . As much as it changed us to go through the break up with Will, it was tempered by the rejoining of Critter and now Corey Younts.'
Carry Me Back (2012)
The group’s new album, Carry Me Back, was released July 17, 2012 on According to Our Records (or ATO Records). Founded by Dave Matthews and his business manager Coran Capshaw in 2000 as a division of RCA Records, ATO is based in New York City and distributes through RED Distribution, Sony Music's independent-distribution arm. The album was recorded at Sound Emporium Studios in Nashville and was produced by Ted Hutt who has worked with Gaslight Anthem, Dropkick Murphys, and Flogging Molly.
The album name derives from "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny”, former official state song of Virginia. The song with "such a pleasurable melody and such discomfiting politics that it has fascinated Secor since he was a kid in Virginia" led him to write “Carry Me Back to Virginia,” for the new album. As Secor reveals:
"That song came from a story I was told as a kid. The Confederates ran out of men, so they got 16-year-old boys from VMI, just kids, to march up to New Market, Virginia. I imagine their pride and valor as they marched up that hill and their shock as they heard the screams of the horses in the smoke. I wanted to surprise the listener the same way, so I started off by extolling the virtue of war, then drawing off all that glory till the truth was revealed."
Another "highlight of the band’s new album", the song "Levi", is based on a more contemporary example of the state's military contribution: it's "about a soldier who grew up in the wild hillbilly woods of Virginia." First Lieutenant Leevi Barnard—from Ararat, Virginia—on his first tour of duty overseas with the National Guard, was "killed by a suicide bomber" in Baghdad’s Dora Market in 2009. Near the end of the NPR broadcast, where Secor first heard the story in 2009, several of the late lieutenant’s friends, part of the funeral congregation, "broke into Barnard’s favorite song" . . "Wagon Wheel". Meanwhile, "Genevieve" by Landry is "an evocative eulogy of a Creole queen who steals a young man's heart." To Secor the album "is as close as that original inspiration to be in a band as when we first got started. It's very much the root of our sound. This record sounds like we would've if we were any good 14 years ago."
Available on CD, vinyl, and cassette, the album "sold over 17,000 copies in its debut week, landing at #22 on the Billboard Albums Chart, leading to both the band's best ever sales week and their highest ever charting position. The album also was #1 on both the Bluegrass and Folk charts and is the #4 Country album in the nation" (as of July 31, 2012). To promote the album, the group played five unannounced shows at historical locations around Nashville, including one surprise show in front of Ryman Auditorium. They toured July/August 2012 with The Lumineers, The Milk Carton Kids, and Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three visiting such cities as: Louisville, Cincinnati, Nashville, Richmond, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and Atlanta.
In his review of the album, which he gave 4 out of 5 stars, Nick Coleman of the London-based newspaper The Independent says of the group: "they bestride the Americana world like a colossus, each leg planted on the opposing shores of authenticity and commercial appeal."  Reviews in The Financial Times and American Songwriter also gave the album 4 out of 5 stars. As a blog critic puts it: "OCMS aren't simply repeating or rehashing the past. They're adding to and expanding upon a musical genre that remains vital and relevant."
"Carry Me Back exploits a kaleidoscopic galaxy of joyous old-timey string sounds updated for the 21st century."—Dave Dawson, Nu Country
Prairie Home Companion
The group make frequent guest appearances on A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor. They appeared October 23, 2011 on live Cinecasts of the show from the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, "seen on movie screens across North America," with Nickel Creek's Sara Watkins, Joe Ely, etc. On October 4, 2008 they appeared in a Cinecast from the same spot. Purdue Convocations presented a live broadcast performance of the show from the Elliott Hall of Music at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana in partnership with WBAA 920AM 101.3FM Public Radio from Purdue with the group and Purdue Varsity Glee Club on October 27, 2012. Starting with a radio appearance June 5, 2004 from Gilford, New Hampshire, together with Leon Redbone at the Meadowbrook Farm Musical Arts Center, where they performed "Wagon Wheel" (with David Rawlings on guitar), they've had a long recurring engagement with the show, including several appearances in the show's home state of Minnesota (on September 25, 2004; February 12, 2005; September 23, 2006; and October 24, 2009). Other live shows have included:
- the Hollywood Bowl in Hollywood, California on June 3, 2005.
- the Wolf Trap in Vienna, Virginia on May 26 & 27, 2006.
- Garrison Keillor's New Year's Eve Special at the Ryman in Nashville, Tennessee on December 31, 2006.
- the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan on May 7, 2011.
As Secor describes the impact of this show on the group . .
". . Garrison Keillor taught our band a whole lot about performance. You know, that show goes all around the country and every town the show stops off in, it’s that show’s hometown. They tailor the show to those places. We’re that way, too. We’ve learned that this kind of music sounds best when you’re a hometown bunch of boys. So, we like to be the hometown band in all the towns we play in, tailoring our show to the Land of Lakes."
"Wagon Wheel"—a "catchy country-infused sing-along that has taken on the status of 'Free Bird'"[n 15]—has become the group's signature song. In some ways bigger than the group itself, the song's origins predate its formation. Of its writing Secor says:
"I heard a Dylan song that was unfinished back in high school and I finished it . . As a serious Bob Dylan fan, I was listening to anything he had put on tape, and this was an outtake of something he had mumbled out on one of those tapes. I sang it all around the country from about 17 to 26, before I ever even thought, 'oh I better look into this.'"
The Dylan outtake, generally titled "Rock Me Mama", came out of recording sessions for the Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid movie soundtrack (1973) in Burbank, California. Never officially released, Fuqua purchased a bootleg copy at the Virgin Megastore in London when on a family trip there and sent it to Secor on his return. Secor later met Dylan’s son, Jakob, who said "it made sense that I was a teenager when I did that, because no one in their 30s would have the guts to try to write a Bob Dylan song."
When Secor sought copyright on the song in 2003 to release it on O.C.M.S. in (2004), he discovered Dylan credited the phrase “Rock me, mama” to bluesman Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup, who likely got it from a Big Bill Broonzy recording. As Secor says: "In a way, it’s taken something like 85 years to get completed." Besides the melody, only the chorus (or refrain) comes from the Dylan outtake:
- So rock me mama like a wagon wheel
- Rock me mama anyway you feel
- Hey mama rock me
- Rock me mama like the wind and the rain
- Rock me mama like a south-bound train
- Hey mama rock me
Secor's verses "the story of a man who travels from New England, through Philadelphia, down the eastern coast of the United States, ending up in Raleigh, North Carolina where he hopes to see his lover." And they contain a geographic impossibility: heading "west from the Cumberland Gap" to Johnson City, Tennessee . . "you’d have to go east." As the writer explains:
Secor and Dylan signed a co-writing agreement, and share copyright on the song; agreeing to a "50-50 split in authorship." The group reportedly performed the song at the Station Inn in Nashville in 2001, as part of a series of songs commemorating Bob Dylan's 60th birthday. The group's version of the song was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America in April 2013. To celebrate they released a limited edition 7” vinyl record of the song with "'All Night Long' Live At The Station Inn" (2003) on the B-side. Asked mid-2008 if he gets "sick of playing it every night?" Secor responded: "I don’t mind playing it every night. I like to see what it does to people, and it’s nice to have something that’s guaranteed, especially when you’re shuffling through new material." He's "just glad to have a couple pen strokes on the corner of the master’s canvas."
The song has been covered by an increasing number of acts since its release in 2004, including versions by Little Feat, Mumford & Sons, and Against Me!. Singer-songwriters Tyler Hilton and Dion Roy, along with country duo Dakota and Will, performed the song together throughout their 2012 tour. Former Hootie and the Blowfish singer, Darius Rucker, joined Old Crow at the Grand Ole Opry July 6, 2012 "for a special rendition of ‘Wagon Wheel.’" He covers the song, as a duet with Lady Antebellum, on his True Believers album. As Rucker says of his recording:
'I didn't know how big it was until after I cut it, until after it was a single. I didn't know that every college student south of the Mason-Dixon Line in the last eight years knows this song. I had no idea. I thought it was just another Old Crow song until I recorded it and realized it wasn't just another Old Crow song.'
Variously described as old-time, Americana, bluegrass, alt-country, and "folk/country", the group started out infusing old Appalachian sounds with new punk energy. Country Music Television notes their "tunes from jug bands and traveling shows, back porches and dance halls, southern Appalachian string music and Memphis blues." Gabrielle Gray, executive director of the International Bluegrass Music Museum—who sponsors ROMP: Bluegrass Roots & Branches Festival, which Old Crow headlined one night in 2012—holds the group "is in the direction of progressive bluegrass." Their live touring show has been described as a "folk-bluegrass-alt-country blend."
"Old Crow makes electrifying, cleanly-picked folk, bluegrass, jug band music, the sort of stuff that's trickled naturally out of the Shenandoah Valley for generations. They weren't, however, born banjo-picking hillbilly babies, the sons of jug-blowing hillbilly parents."—ConnectSavannah
But by the early 1990s, the era of punk rock and grunge, Secor and Fuqua were "learning to play antiquated unamplified instruments and borrowing songs from their fathers,’ grandfathers’ and even great-grandfathers’ generations." Fuqua remembers . .
". . selling all my Pearl Jam records to get Bob Dylan records. I went back in time and I started listening to Jimi Hendrix, because I knew he’d covered ‘All Along the Watchtower.’ And I started listening to all these Memphis and Delta blues players. And Ketch went down the road to the old-time Appalachian stuff and playing clawhammer banjo. Then we kind of met back up . . and we realized we could put that energy that we loved in punk rock and Nirvana into what we were doing."
"We just knew we wanted to combine the technical side of the old sound with the energy of a Nirvana," Fuqua adds. This path from punk to old-time they share with other acts, many of whom have followed their lead, and for the same reason . .
"Most of the musicians in the Avett Brothers, Old Crow Medicine Show, the Devil Makes Three, Uncle Earl, Crooked Still, the Duhks, the Mammals, and the Hackensaw Boys were former punk rockers who had picked up acoustic instruments. With no need for amps, they could suddenly play on street corners or in meadows, and their lyrics could be heard as never before. They weren’t imitating the baby boomer generation by playing bluegrass or folk rock. By turning instead to the pre-bluegrass genre of old-time mountain music, they could connect to a tradition older than their parents and still play as fast and hard as they had as punks."—Geoffrey Himes, Baltimore City Paper
Starting from old-time music in the Appalachian hills, the group found themselves "making a foray into electric instruments and 'really knocking up the rock 'n' roll tree' on their 2008 release 'Tennessee Pusher'." As Secor saw it . .
"On our tour we started having a bigger band. I started playing keyboards. The boys would bring out electric guitars. It was a lot of fun, but we were just blowing off steam. It's hard to be in a rock 'n' roll string band and face your fiddle every day and say, 'All right, what can we do that we've never done before?'"
On the documentary "Big Easy Express" about the Railroad Revival Tour with Mumford & Sons and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros they "practice(d) a complementary variation of folk" bringing "a pleasingly smoky amalgam of country, bluegrass, and blues." With "Carry Me Back" (2012) they've "circled back to the original sound that so excited (Secor) and Fuqua as kids . . full of old-timey string sounds updated for the 21st century — sing-a-longs that lift the soul, ballads that rend the heart and a few moments of pure exhilaration."
"It's like the name says, it's a show, there's a snake oil factor and a hip twist to the elixir.":2—Frank Goodman, Puremusic.com
After their move to Ithaca—when Old Crow busked on the streets, made DIY recordings and later settled in Boone, North Carolina—the band members weren’t performing songs they’d written, but drawing on a storehouse of pre-war jug band, string band, minstrel show, blues and folk fare. As with other young groups in the genre, driven by all that punk music energy, they early played it "fast and hard":
"'Fast and hard' was the key concept in those early years, as the bands built followings attracted by the novelty of banjos and fiddles attacked with thrashing energy. But energy is the cheapest commodity in pop music; anyone’s who’s young enough and hungry enough can play with a lot of energy. As a result, it was often hard to distinguish one 20-something string band from another. The groups quickly realized, if they were going to separate themselves from the crowd, they were going to have to come up with something different. That difference could have been virtuosity, but that seemed antithetical to the movement’s spirit. No, the difference would have to be songwriting."
Along with the Avett Brothers, the group has distinguished itself "from the crowded field of New Wave string bands as genuine stars. And both groups have done it by writing new songs more ambitious than mere rewrites of old hillbilly and blues numbers." Songs they write often have a socially-conscious theme, such as "I Hear Them All", "Ways Of Man", "Ain’t It Enough", and "Levi". Says Secor: "We sing songs that have teeth. This world, it bites.” Landry sees the bigger voice behind it:
"Songs that I would just write naturally generally come from more of a personal experience. It’s more anthemic with Old Crow . . It has a broader voice than any of its individual singers."
". . 'Carry Me Back to Virginia' . . begins as a rousing evocation of young Confederate soldiers plunging into battle, but the later verses, with freezing survivors huddling against horse corpses, strip all the romanticism from war. 'We Don’t Grow Tobacco' begins as a lament about the cruel conditions on the tobacco farms but ends with a lament about unemployment when the farms close down. 'Bootlegger’s Boy' begins as a romanticized view of the moonshining life but ends in violence and regret. Time and again the band pulls the rug out from under our assumptions, but they always provide music of enough beauty and strength to catch us when we fall."
As to his take on the age-old soldier-dying-in-battle song in "Levi", Secor says: "It's not all that talk about all the eagles soaring. I don't like that kind of song, and I am out to undo that kind of song."
Secor admits to developing "the habit of writing what he calls 'stolen melody songs'"—in much the same way he'd created "Wagon Wheel", carrying on in the folk tradition—"like when he penned fresh, war tax-themed lyrics to a tune that had already passed through other wholesale re-writes during its descent from old-time Scots-Irish balladry." Secor explains: "That’s what I saw happening, so I just added my two cents." As Dave Rawlings describes it: "I’ve always thought that a really important thing that the Old Crow Medicine Show brought to the table was new songs—some reinterpreted old ones, some really nicely written and brand new—with the old flavor, but also with that vitality." As Secor puts it:
An early Secor influence was John Hartford who performed for his first grade class in Missouri, making him want "to play the banjo after that;" and the first song he ever learned to play was Tom Paxton's "Ramblin' Boy".:6 Guns N' Roses was Fuqua's "first influence": when they released Appetite for Destruction (1987), while he was in seventh grade, he knew he wanted to be a musician. As he describes the punk rock influence:
"The first band that I loved was Guns N' Roses, and about the time we were in middle school, Ketch and I were listening to Nirvana, the Pixies, Dead Milkmen, all kinds of stuff. There was a big punk rock scene out of Richmond about that time, early '90s. And in high school, we'd just go watch the punk bands from Richmond play."
He claims AC/DC and Nirvana as influences "and then into blues and then into more obscure fiddlers. Some Conjunto from down in San Antonio." "Take 'Em Away", written when he was 17, is "loosely based on Mance Lipscomb, a blues singer and sharecropper from Navasota County" who he says "was a big influence on me."
Naming his major influences, Secor states: "Certainly, Bob Dylan . . Bob Dylan . . Bob Dylan. More than anything else. More than any book or song or story or play. The work and the recorded work of Bob Dylan. It’s the most profound influence on me. And then the other people that really influenced me tend to be the same people who influenced Bob Dylan."
Fuqua concurs on Dylan's influence:
"He's a link to Woody Guthrie, who's a link to an even earlier form of American music history. He's still making great albums, too. Bob Dylan's a great doorway for all sorts of artists because he's not just folk, or just rock. He's very much Bob Dylan. I think bands like us, Mumford and Sons, and Gillian Welch and David Rawlings are sort of doing what he has done before, in that we take our own experiences and observations and put them into songs made of traditional, American roots form. That form is still a great vehicle for songs, whether the song is about love, the Iraq War or anything else."
Secor had . .
". . this Newport Broadside record that I was really, really crazy about. It was 1963 at the Newport Folk Festival. And I learned a lot of licks off of that. And I was singing 'You Playboys and Playgirls,' and a bunch of Bob Dylan tunes pretty soon thereafter. So I got to give props to Bob. I think that Bob is really the main one, the integral force in making me want to play jug band music and making me want to go back to the source.":6
Asked if he ever feels "boxed-in by the traditional roots form of music?" Fuqua responds:
"I don't think it confines us in any way. I think of us as a link in a chain that also consists of links from the Irish and English fiddles and ballads, and the banjos and rhythm from the African Americans. The same chain also has links that go from bluegrass to the blues to even Elvis Presley. There's the same passion, desire and subject matter that we would have, even if we were playing with electric guitars."
As Secor puts it: "If you already love music, you should really just go for it and go back to the raw, weird, deep, toothy, gummy, crazy stuff. That's what got me excited," recommending Guthrie, the Carter Family, and early Dylan . .
"I think artists like that—that point you back, that themselves are not denying that they are rooted in something, that the music and the art that they make is not their own—those artists will send you back down the line. And then you can find out for yourself what makes music so magical in this country."
When Secor, Fuqua, and company first got together "old-timey pickers their age were few and far between. Modern rock was still a force to be reckoned with. Now hard-driving string bands are where it’s at." As Fuqua puts it:
"When we started the band in ’98, you didn’t see anybody our age playing banjos or upright basses or fiddles, or playing this music. I mean, you did if you went to the fiddle festivals at Mt. Airy or in Galax, Virginia. But . . now you throw a stone in any direction . . you’ll hit someone in a band who’s . . playing banjo or playing these old-time tunes."
"I think we were a bit ahead of the curve," Fuqua adds. To Americana Music Association (AMA) President Jed Hilly, the historic path of Americana music passes through the group: "The baton is passed from Emmylou Harris to Gillian Welch and David Rawlings to Old Crow Medicine Show to the Avett Brothers." Emmylou Harris was, in fact . .
". . among the gateway artists who helped Mumford and bandmates Ben Lovett, Ted Dwane and Winston Marshall discover their love for American roots music. It started with the 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' soundtrack . . That eventually led them to the Old Crow Medicine Show and then deep immersion in old-timey sounds from America's long-neglected past."
Marcus Mumford, front man of Mumford & Sons, recognizes the group's influence: "I first heard Old Crow’s music when I was, like, 16, 17, and that really got me into, like, folk music, bluegrass. I mean, I’d listened to a lot of Dylan, but I hadn’t really ventured into the country world so much. So Old Crow were the band that made me fall in love with country music." Mumford acknowledges in "Big Easy Express", Emmett Malloy's "moving documentary" about the vintage train tour they'd invited Old Crow to join them on, that "the band inspired them to pick up the banjo and start their now famous country nights in London." Secor concurs: "Those boys took the message and ran with it."
Graham Sherrill, co-founder of Westbound Rangers, remembers:
"When I was in high school in Apex, North Carolina I went to a travelling Grand Ole Opry tour that featured Ricky Skaggs and some others I knew. But what I really remember is seeing Old Crow Medicine Show for the first time that night. Old Crow was playing around a single microphone and had the whole crowd in the palm of their hand . . They played 'C.C. Rider' and I remember thinking, 'Man, I gotta get in a band like this!'"
Kurt Loewen, guitarist for "the mostly acoustic" Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra, a group that's "clearly cutting-edge in its musical ancientness" concurs:
"The Rolling Stones were crazy about the blues of earlier decades, because it was old but new. That’s why Mumford & Sons and Old Crow Medicine Show can be successful — because they’re the old meeting the new. That has allowed us to do this kind of music. Maybe we couldn’t have tried making a living at acoustic music 10 years ago, but there’s an absolute acoustic revival going on — especially in America. You go to the Pacific Northwest, and there are acoustic punk bands all over the place."
Whiskey Shivers from Austin, Texas, a quintet that brings "its ragged harmonies and hard-driving rhythms with it" on its "mission of punk-fueled picking and singing," shows the "unorthodox, youth-charged, string band movement of Appalachia (think Old Crow Medicine Show or the Hackensaw Boys) has spread well to the west and south," according to one music reviewer. Groups like these "seem to have the energy of a punk band, but instead of pure metal, you get thrashing banjo and high-octane fiddle runs."
"This fellow in town, Jerry Brown, once said, 'You can put a banjo in a 40-piece orchestra and people will still call it a folk band.' People are still going to ask anybody with a mandolin and a cello to play 'Wagon Wheel'."—Andrew Marlin, Mandolin Orange
"The first day of this year's New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival culminated in back-to-back sets by West London's Mumford & Sons and North Carolina's The Avett Brothers before a crowd more than 20,000 strong. Here was conclusive proof, as if it were needed, that a new wave of young string bands has broken out of the underground into genuine stardom. These two bands, which performed together with Bob Dylan on this year's Grammy Awards telecast, have shown that young people can respond in large numbers to the combination of fiddles, acoustic guitars and doghouse bass played with the same energy as punk rock."—Geoffrey Himes, NPR
After three years playing guitar, Kevin Hayes, switched over to the guitjo (or "guit-jo"), adding a distinctive note to the group's sound. He "has been Old Crow’s full-time guitar-banjo player since the band started recording in 2004," but began playing the "six-string banjo by accident." As he puts it . .
"My first one came as a gift at a gig, probably around 1999. I don’t know whether this person had made it or found it somewhere, but he just handed it to me and laughed. And I had so much fun with it that night that I didn’t want to stop. It stuck."
He keeps the 1929 Guitar GB-1, "his primary instrument", in standard tuning "which allows him to play three-note chords up the neck, flatpick on fiddle tunes, and fingerpick on slower songs" in what Hayes describes as a "plunketty" tone. It gives him "a range of tones on the high strings, little response on the low strings, and virtually no sustain." As he says . .
"The biggest difference between a guitar and a guitjo is that the guitjo has no bottom. I rarely touch the low strings, because people wouldn’t hear them. And even on the high strings, the sound decays as fast as you can hit it. So I find myself taking a different approach than I would on guitar. I play really aggressively, like a rock ’n’ roller, which gives the guitjo a real thwack. It’s a very percussive sound, and when that guitjo starts to hum, when its mojo gets rolling around, and kicks into overdrive, you can feel it in your body."
When not playing with Old Crow—he released a solo album in 2011 as Kevin Paul Hayes—he plays acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and lap steel. Hayes, who co-wrote “Carry Me Back to Virginia,” “Country Gal,” and “Sewanee Mountain Catfight” from the group's 2012 album, "almost always uses his Harmony parlor guitar" when he writes, but he advises others: "If you’re thinking about trying guitjo, I say go for it. You’ll instantly be able to play chords, and as you play more, the way you hear the music will change, and the way you approach your instrument will change."
The group owes much of their success to busking—performing in public for the money they throw. They essentially started with busking, gathered new members through busking, developed their sound (and chops) busking, had their biggest break into the music business while busking, and remain committed to busking. As Secor puts it:
"I learned a lot about making music on the street corner, because we just played there so much. It was a great place to get started. One of the reasons that I played the kind of music that I played is that the street was so inviting to a fiddler. You almost felt like you were onstage, being a fiddler on the street... And there's just something about playing acoustic music as loud as you can and using your energy and excitement to get people to stop and to form a little horseshoe around you."
It was their first extended trip together, the Trans Canada Highway Tour in 1998, that originally defined the group as they "busked their buns off for the folks at the Farmers Market in Ottawa and the Fork's Market in Winnipeg." It might be said "if it weren't for music fans in Ladysmith, British Columbia and Wawa, Ontario there might not be an Old Crow Medicine Show." Their experiences in Wawa actually inspired their first record "Greetings from Wawa". At one point the band was making almost seven hundred dollars a day busking. As Secor explains: "We lived like KINGS in Ottawa! We all had girlfriends and thought we were going to live there." One fateful afternoon, while busking in front of Boone Drug in downtown Boone, North Carolina "a middle-aged woman stopped to listen." Leaving, she said "she wanted to bring her father over to hear them." She returned with Doc Watson, blind. They "struck up 'Oh My Little Darling,' a well-known old-time song they thought Doc would like." Watson said: "Boys, that was some of the most authentic old-time music I've heard in a long while. You almost got me crying." He asked them to play at Merlefest, "a four-day festival held every year at Wilkes Community College in honor of Watson's late son and collaborator Merle, who died in a tractor accident." This big break led the group to Nashville and on to major success.
Group bassist Morgan Jahnig joined the group as a result of a "random" encounter with early Old Crow busking on the streets of Nashville with his father in 2000. Guitarist Gill Landry also first met the group busking in 2000—both were street performing during Mardi Gras in New Orleans—and later joined the group full-time in 2007. The earliest beginnings of the group involved busking in the Northeast of the U.S., and in that way attracting fresh talent. Guitjo player Kevin Hayes—originally from Haverhill, Massachusetts—was in Bar Harbor, Maine raking blueberries when he encountered Secor "on the street in front of a jewelry store playing the banjo.":5
To promote Carry Me Back Home, in Summer of 2012, the group did a series of "guerilla" shows around Nashville, including a busking stint in front of the Ryman Auditorium where they performed "Sewanee Mountain Catfight" for an "unsuspecting crowd of tourists." They remain committed to busking as a way to stay connected to the people they're trying to reach. As Secor states:
"We like playing for big crowds, and the goal all along has been for people to pay a little to come and see us. But it all started on street corners, and that is still very connected to what we do. It’s such a validating musical experience. Busking is a very humble and brave act that takes courage to do well. It’s also about the energy of music being alive outside in a city . . You can walk right by it right in front of you. Sure, to some people you’re just another guy with his hand out, so sometimes busking can be great social barometer. You’re able to gauge who you live with on earth."
"It’s always been our heart and soul" sums up Secor. "Our performance comes out of all those years spent cutting our teeth on the street corner."
Awards, honors, distinctions
- The music documentary Big Easy Express, in which the band was featured along with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Mumford and Sons, won a Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video in 2013. Directed by Emmett Malloy, the video was produced by Bryan Ling, Mike Luba, and Tim Lynch under the S2BN Films label.
- Their recording of "Wagon Wheel" was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America in April 2013.
- Old Crow have headlined at the Grand Ole Opry, after earlier having performed at that institution's 75th-anniversary celebration, and appeared in special New Year's Eve shows in 2009 (with special guest Chuck Mead) and 2010 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.
- They opened for the Dave Matthews Band in 2009 at the John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, VA; the Verizon Wireless Music Center in Pelham, AL; and the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh, NY.
- The band was nominated for a 2007 Americana Music Award in the category of "Best Duo Or Group."
- Their music video of "I Hear Them All", a song from Big Iron World (2006), was nominated for two 2007 CMT (Country Music Television) Music Awards; making first-round finalist in the Best Group and Wide Open Country categories. Directed by Danny Clinch, the video was shot in the Mid-City area of New Orleans featuring local residents with inspirational stories regarding Hurricane Katrina.
- Their 2004 album O.C.M.S. was selected by CMT as one of the top-10 bluegrass albums of the year.
- The group join Charley Pride and Connie Smith, wife of Marty Stuart, when he celebrates his 20th year as a member of the Grand Ole Opry December 8, 2012 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.
- The group performed with such acts as John Mellencamp, Jackson Browne, Dropkick Murphys, Tom Morello, and Arlo Guthrie at The Kennedy Center, in collaboration with the Grammy Museum, to celebrate the life and work of folk singer and icon Woody Guthrie on October 14, 2012 at The Kennedy Center Concert Hall.
- They took part in the Woody Guthrie Centennial Celebration Concert This Land Is Your Land March 10, 2012 at the Brady Theater in Tulsa, Oklahoma, performing classic Woody Guthrie songs with Arlo Guthrie, John Mellencamp, Jackson Browne, Rosanne Cash, Del McCoury Band, The Flaming Lips, Hanson, Tim O'Brien, and Jimmy LaFave.
- The group helped celebrate the life of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival founder/benefactor Warren Hellman at a free tribute concert in San Francisco February 19, 2012, appearing with such acts as John Doe, Dry Branch Fire Squad, Steve Earle, The Wronglers with Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Gillian Welch, Boz Scaggs, and Emmylou Harris.
- Old Crow Medicine Show performed "Tell Mother I Will Meet Her" at the induction of Emmylou Harris and Ernest V. "Pop" Stoneman into the Country Music Hall of Fame April 27, 2008.
- They joined Uncle Earl, Sunny Sweeney, Todd Snider, The Avett Brothers, Guy Clark, Emmylou Harris, the Hacienda Brothers, Elizabeth Cook, Amy LaVere, and Ricky Skaggs with Bruce Hornsby as performers for the Americana Honors and Awards Show held November 1, 2007 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.
- The group appear opening day at the Stagecoach Festival 2013 in Indio, California—with Toby Keith, Hank Williams, Jr., Trace Adkins, Connie Smith, and Commander Cody. Lady Antebellum, Dwight Yoakam, Marty Stuart, Justin Townes Earle, Darius Rucker, Jerry Lee Lewis, Charley Pride, Don Williams, Tanya Tucker, and John Reilly and Friends also perform at the festival.
- The group perform at the 20th anniversary Celtic Connections in Glasgow, Scotland music festival sometime "between January 17th and February 3rd" 2013 with "(s)ome of the finest acts in folk, Celtic, roots, world music, traditional, indie, blues and jazz" including The Mavericks, Transatlantic Sessions with Mary Chapin Carpenter, Carlos Núñez & the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Lonesome Fire, Caravan Palace, and Bellowhead. The festival takes "place over 18 days in various venues throughout Glasgow," with the group appearing at The Barrowland Ballroom.
- Vince Gill and the group served as one-night headliners at the 9th annual ROMP: Bluegrass Roots and Branches Festival Yellow Creek Park in Owensboro, Kentucky June 2012 for International Bluegrass Music Museum’s 'largest annual fundraising event.' Those who had attended the previous year’s ROMP were polled on what groups they would like to see and Old Crow and The Avett Brothers "topped the list." Other acts included: Carolina Chocolate Drops, Punch Brothers, Greensky Bluegrass, Pokey LaFarge & the South City Three, and Lonesome River Band.
- They performed at the 41st Annual New Orleans Jazz Festival in 2010, an event featuring Pearl Jam, Aretha Franklin, Van Morrison, Lionel Richie, The Neville Brothers, Allman Brothers Band, and Anita Baker.
- The group performed at the All Good Music Festival and Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in 2010. In 2009 they appeared at the CMC (Country Music Channel) Rocks the Snowys in Thredbo, Australia and the Golden Plains Festival held at the "Meredith Supernatural Ampitheatre" over Victorian Labour Day weekend in Victoria, Australia.
- They appeared at the first annual BamaJam Music and Arts Festival in Enterprise, Alabama in 2008—ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Hank Williams, Jr., Keller Williams, the Yonder Mountain String Band, Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys, Dan Tyminski, the Del McCoury Band, and Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder also appeared that year.
- The group appeared at the inaugural 2002 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival and have returned in 2005, 2007, and 2011.
- After founder Doc Watson invited the band to participate in his annual MerleFest music festival in Wilkesboro, North Carolina in 2000,:2000 the group have appeared there in 2004:2004 and 2008.:2008 They have also appeared at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 2005 and 2011, and at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in 2003,:2003 2004,:2004 and 2009.:2009
- They appeared at the 2005 Newport Folk Festival in Newport, Rhode Island, sharing stage with such acts as Ray LaMontagne, Richard Thompson, Del McCoury, The Kennedys, Patty Griffin, The Pixies, Buddy Miller, Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, and Elvis Costello. They return to Newport in 2013, the 55th anniversary of the storied festival, along with The Avett Brothers, Justin Townes Earle, Phosphorescent, Milk Carton Kids, The Lumineers, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, and others.
- The group appear in the PBS broadcast of Woody Guthrie AT 100! LIVE AT THE KENNEDY CENTER, recorded live October 14, 2012 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and broadcast on PBS stations beginning June 1, 2013. The centennial concert, honoring Guthrie and his music, also featured Jackson Browne, Tom Morello, Donovan, Ani DiFranco with Ry Cooder, Rosanne Cash, The Del McCoury Band with Tim O'Brien, John Mellencamp, etc. Old Crow performed "Union Maid"—and "This Land Is Your Land" and "This Train Is Bound for Glory" with all performers. The concert was produced and directed by four-time Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Jim Brown, and produced in collaboration with The GRAMMY Museum Foundation.
- Ketch Secor and Chris "Critter" Fuqua were interviewed on NPR Weekend Edition Sunday July 8, 2012—"Old Crow Medicine Show: Something Borrowed" [10 min 15 sec]."
- The group appeared on Austin City Limits—after Lucinda Williams—in a segment aired December 2007 (taped September 2007).
- They make frequent guest appearances on A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor, including October 23, 2011 on a live Cinecast of the show from the Fitzgerald Theater in St.Paul, "seen on movie screens across North America," with Nickel Creek's Sara Watkins, Joe Ely, etc. Purdue Convocations presents a live broadcast performance of the show from the Elliott Hall of Music at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana in partnership with WBAA 920AM 101.3FM Public Radio from Purdue with the group and Purdue Varsity Glee Club on October 27, 2012.
- They appeared on Late Night with Conan O'Brien with Lauren Graham and Paula Abdul on May 7, 2004 [Season 11, Episode 109] and again on December 23, 2008—appearing with Dustin Hoffman and Greg Giraldo [Season 16, Episode 65].
- Old Crow Medicine Show made their national television debut on CMT's Grand Ole Opry Live in 2002.
- They appear in the musical documentary Big Easy Express, directed by Emmett Malloy, being made of The Railroad Revival Tour, which premiered March 2012 at the South by Southwest Film Conference and Festival (SXSW Film) in Austin, Texas—winning the Headliner Audience Award.
- The group appear in the PBS American Roots Music series; "In the Valley Where Time Stands Still", a film about the history of the Renfro Valley Barn Dance; and "Bluegrass Journey", a portrait of the contemporary bluegrass scene.
- They performed on the soundtrack for the film Transamerica which was nominated for an Academy Award in 2005.
- Critter Fuqua – banjo, resonator guitar, guitar, accordion, vocals
- Kevin Hayes – guitjo, vocals
- Morgan Jahnig – stand-up bass
- Gill Landry – banjo, resonator guitar, guitar, vocals
- Chance McCoy – fiddle, guitar, banjo, vocals
- Ketch Secor – fiddle, harmonica, banjo, guitar, bajo sexto, vocals
- Cory Younts[n 16]
When group co-founder Fuqua "went on hiatus" from the group in 2007 to pursue "recovery from a longtime alcohol addiction", the group looked for a suitable replacement, finding it in Gill Landry, whom they'd first encountered in New Orleans in 2000, where they were "both busking over Mardi Gras." As Landry tells the story:
Recovering quickly, he "went to a place called The Folkstore in Seattle, and bought a Goodtime banjo." He got a five-minute lesson from the store owner, then "practiced it for two weeks before I went to meet the boys. I played it on the Opry and at Doc Watson days. I must have just been god awful (sic)." Something must have worked, because "they kept calling me back." In October 2011 he self-released his second solo album titled Piety & Desire—featuring the Felice Brothers, Brandi Carlile, Jolie Holland, Ketch Secor, and Samantha Parton (of the Be Good Tanyas)—where he "creates a whole film and stereo hi-fi noir milieu" by realizing "a dozen rootsy, ambient and mostly catchy hardscrabble southwestern tinged originals." "Coal Black Heaven" from his earlier The Ballad of Lawless Soirez (2007) was hailed as "something of a hobo haiku to the national collapse and depression looming over every hollowed-out and rusted-through US river town."
Asked mid-2008 if Gill Landry was "now a full-time member or will Critter Fuqua be back?" Secor responded:
"I don’t know. That’s up to him. We have to move forward and keep doing what we’re doing. I can’t convince Critter to come play all over the country with us. I’ve been playing music with Critter since I was 12 years old, and I’m not worried about never playing with him again. Other people shouldn’t worry about it either. I’ll be playing with him until I’m an old man."
The official announcement at the group webpage regarding the rejoining of Fuqua, and the departure of Watson, read:
'We are happy to announce that one of the original founding members, Critter Fuqua, is back in the band. Critter has written and recorded some of Old Crow’s classic songs, including “Take ‘em Away”, “James River Blues”, “Big Time In The Jungle”, and “New Virginia Creeper”. Old Crow Medicine Show have decided to part ways with Willie Watson. They wish him all the best in his future endeavors.'
The banner announcing the hiatus was removed from the official band website as of December 13, 2011.
Reportedly Watson has since played with actor John C. Reilly's band John Reilly and Friends, together with Tom Brosseau, Becky Stark, and Sebastian Steinberg, and Dan Bern "who’s a great songwriter and who wrote a lot of stuff for Walk Hard." As Reilly says, "a lot of these people come and go because they have outstanding gigs that they have obligations to." He has opened for John Prine in places such as the Minnesota Zoo amphitheater in Apple Valley, Minnesota.
Chance McCoy joined the group just prior to the 2012 tour promoting Carry Me Back. He "grew up in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, though he was born in Washington DC." After "playing in garage and punk bands in the region" he "started playing old time music with this band called The Speakeasy Boys, which was a rag-tag bunch of kids that just graduated college that ran their own speakeasy in this college town, Shepherdstown, West Virginia." He later played with Larry Keel for a year, was a "founding member" of The Woodshedders, and then played with the Lilly Brothers "for a while". He later performed with the old-time group Old Sledge which had "implode(d) at a music festival in Maine" just before he received a request to audition for Old Crow. As a teacher of old-time music at Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College in Elkins, West Virginia he attracted the attention of the group who "wanted to get Old Crow back together and on the road again." As McCoy puts it:
"They were looking for somebody who was steeped in old time music and they found me through Augusta Heritage Center because Ketch and Critter both went to Augusta when they were teenagers. They remembered from their experience there that there were a lot of really great old time musicians who teach there."
Secor concurs: 'He got the gig because I knew that anyone who worked at Augusta knew all about old-time music.'
In Summer 2011 McCoy released Chance McCoy and the Appalachian String Band a "free album of nineteen songs . . his first solo recording . . a beautiful, rootsy collection of country and bluegrass ballads." He participates in OneBeat as one of the 2012 inaugural OneBeat Fellows, 32 from 21 countries, with "a unique and powerful commitment to using music to inspire, engage, educate, and transform society." OneBeat is "a new international cultural exchange by the U.S. Department of State that celebrates the transformative power of the arts through the creation of original, inventive music, and people-to-people diplomacy."
- Ben Gould – stand-up bass
- Matt Kinman – bones, mandolin, vocals
- Willie Watson – guitar, banjo, fiddle, harmonica, vocals
|Year||Album||Peak chart positions||Label||ASIN|
|US Grass||US Country||US||US
|2000||Greetings from WawaA||Blood Donor|
|2006||Big Iron WorldC||1||27||125||2||B000FNO1DE|
|2012||Carry Me Back||1||4||22||5||1||ATO Records||B0082LUEJQ|
- AOut of print.
- BO.C.M.S. was re-released under the title Old Crow Medicine Show as an import in 2006. (ASIN: B000GFLI64)
- CBig Iron World charted: (27) Country Albums, (1) Bluegrass Albums, (2) Heatseekers Albums, (11) Tastemaker Albums.
- DTennessee Pusher charted: (7) Country Albums, (1) Bluegrass Albums, (16) Digital Albums, (9) Tastemaker Albums.
- Vegas (out of print) **Cassette only
- Troubles Up and Down the Road (2001) (out of print)
- The Webcor Sessions (2002) (out of print)
- NapsterLife 09/29/2004 (2004)
- Down Home Girl (2006) Nettwerk Records — ASIN: B000FORKT0
- World Cafe Live from iTunes (2006) Broadcast on NPR's World Cafe October 25, 2006
- Caroline (2008) Nettwerk Records - Three track single featuring previously unreleased song "Back To New Orleans"
- The group appears on "The Music Is You: A Tribute to John Denver", due for release in February 2013 on ATO Records, an album that will "spotlight Denver's folky, sentimental songs done by popular and generally fashionable artists", including My Morning Jacket, Brandi Carlile, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Dave Matthews, Lucinda Williams, and Josh Ritter.
- Old Crow Medicine Show appear on "veteran roots/Americana band" Marley’s Ghost album Jubilee, released June 2012 on Sage Arts, celebrating their 25th anniversary. Recorded at Nashville’s Sound Emporium and produced by Cowboy Jack Clement, the album features other "full-on collaborations between the band and their friends" such as Emmylou Harris, John Prine, Marty Stuart, and Larry Campbell. The album cover a wide variety of classic American songwriters including Kris Kristofferson, Levon Helm, Bobby and Shirley Womack, and John Prine "alongside a half-dozen original compositions."
- The group recorded "Angel From Montgomery" for Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine (2010), an album celebrating Prine's rich and influential catalog, joining other artists contributing such as Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, My Morning Jacket, Josh Ritter, The Avett Brothers, Conor Oberst & The Mystic Valley Band, Drive-By Truckers, Lambchop, and Justin Townes Earle.
- Ketch Secor wrote, arranged, and performs "Send No Angels" with Lani Marsh on Our Christmas Present: 2008, a fundraising album for Our Community Place in Harrisonburg, Virginia as a favor to founder/director Ron Copeland, who was owner of Little Grill when/where his music career began.
- Song of America (2007) Various Artists Split Rock Records/Thirty One Tigers
- OCMS perform Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos) (Disc 2/Track 15)
- In 2007, Gill Landry released a solo album titled The Ballad of Lawless Soirez on Nettwerk Records. In Spring/Summer of 2010, he released his second solo album titled Piety & Desire, which features the Felice Brothers, Brandi Carlile, Jolie Holland, Ketch Secor, and Samantha Parton (of the Be Good Tanyas).
- They perform Woody Guthrie’s “Deportee” on Song of America (2007), a 3-CD set tracing the history of the U.S. through new versions of songs by major artists. Proceeds benefit the Center for American Music, National History Day, and Folk Alliance.
- They performed on the soundtrack for the film Transamerica which was nominated for an Academy Award in 2005.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Old Crow Medicine Show|
- A "thirty-year-old friend who had actually grown up playing old-time music, lived in an unheated room off the kitchen" at Dickerson Pike, where the group first lived in Nashville, and "occasionally played with the band" including their Opry debut.
- A "young folksy kind of jam element acoustic band that was really popular in the southern tier region of New York State. ." as Secor describes it. Watson "was playing shows statewide by the time he was sixteen" with "this group that had some congas and some clawhammer banjo . .":7
- "Ithaca is known far and wide as a hotbed of what’s called old-time music," says Pete "Dr. Banjo" Wernick. Adds Mac Benford: "Ithaca for 40 years has been a center of old time music, nationally."
- Lydia Peelle later had a change of heart, sought Secor out in a "tiny cabin in the woods" in Tennessee, and they were married in 2001.
- Where Dave Matthews once served as bartender and encountered the musicians who would later form the Dave Matthews Band.
- As Secor relates it: "In the year 2000, his daughter heard us play outside of his favorite restaurant, the Boone Drug. Doc had something he liked on the menu at the Drug, so he was often there."
- Founded in 1988 in memory of Doc's son Eddy Merle Watson, who died in a farm tractor accident in 1985, as a fundraiser for Wilkes Community College and to celebrate "traditional plus" music.
- They first "occupied an inexpensive two-story house on a dead-end peninsula squeezed on three sides by highways, where the drone of passing cars was constant" on Dickerson Pike in E. Nashville "a thoroughfare best known for its whoring, drugging ways."
- Jahnig had enrolled at New York University to study music technology, "plann(ing) on being an engineer in a studio." He "hooked up with Old Crow in 2001 after the ‘Dot.com’ company (he) was working for went under."
- Ben Gould "had a baby, and couldn't swing it down south", according to Secor.:7
- They would soon sign with Norm Parenteau, a Nashville agent who worked with Gillian Welch and Alison Krauss.
- They played a "post-Grammy party at the Biltmore Hotel" in Los Angeles February 27, 2002 for the 44th Annual Grammy Awards when the 0 Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack was the surprise winner of five awards, including album of the year and Best Male Country Vocal for "O Death" by Ralph Stanley (the 75-year-old's first Grammy).
- According to Fuqua, who wrote the song at 18: "The song is loosely based off Mance Lipscomb, a blues singer and sharecropper from Navasota County, and the rivers I remember as a child living in East Texas. He was a big influence on me."
- Written when Secor was 17, adding verses to a Bob Dylan chorus, the song appeared earlier on the self-produced Troubles Up and Down the Road (2001).
- "in that it has become a bar room staple that drunks love to loudly request at every show, regardless of who the band is"
- Younts left temporarily to perform in Jack White's backup band, Los Buzzardos (or The Buzzards)—on world tour to support White's album Blunderbuss—a few months into 2012, returning to the group in 2013.
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