My first encounter with Old Crow Medicine Show was on Valentine’s Day 2004 at a Bob Goldstone-produced in-store at the old Tower Records on West End. They were there to celebrate the release of their debut record, O.C.M.S. Unfamiliar to me at the time, I remember Grimey telling me to get there early since they had already built a substantial following from their live sets at the Station Inn. For whatever reason, they failed to stay on my radar, so I have only loosely followed their career. Things changed earlier this summer when I was stunned by the excitement and energy of their set at Louisville’s Forecastle festival. There was no way that I was going to miss their upcoming show at Fontenal.
Heading to the north side of town and getting in and out of Fontenal is always a bit of a chore. Thankfully this show was on a Saturday night. The ever-present threat of rain never dampened our spirits or the ground for that matter. It was general admission, and the early arrivers sat their lawn chairs down front for openers Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale. The chairs eventually became useless objects when the crowd grew to its near 4,500 capacity. The spots down front filled in causing everyone to stand for Old Crow.
To me, Old Crow represents what would have resulted if The Ramones had ever decided to switch to bluegrass. These seven talented musicians play with a lively and feverish energy so reminiscent of that early punk attitude. And, like those New York bands did back in the day, they hold a great respect and admiration for the tradition of what came before them. While Joey, Dee Dee, Johnny and Tommy looked back to The New York Dolls and the MC5, Ketch Secor and his band mates found their inspiration in the likes of Bill Monroe and Hank Williams.
Secor serves as the band’s unofficial leader. He is the front man most of the time, however, Old Crow is a band where everyone gets in the act and has their turn at lead vocals. They kicked things off tonight with their spirited cover of Alabama’s “Dixieland Delight” which will appear on an upcoming Americana tribute CD to the band Alabama. The hour and 45 minute set focused on original tunes from the band’s four studio releases in addition to a few interesting covers. One was their rousing show-ending rendition of Tom Petty’s “American Girl” with its signature staccato guitar riff nicely mimicked by a few fiddles.
It was obvious that the band was happy to be home from the road and made many references to local cities throughout the night. Secor gave a few shout-outs to the host city of Whites Creek noting he and another band member used to live there. Two new songs were played. One of these was “Cumberland River,” a song the band wrote during the 2010 Nashville flood while they happened to be in of all places, New Orleans.
Respectfully referring to them as “Nashville Royalty,” the boys summoned openers Miller and Lauderdale to the stage more than once. Each got a solo number with the band. With a cover of Possum’s “Tennessee Whiskey,” Lauderdale suggested that he should play the lead in a George Jones biopic. Miller chose to play one of his originals, “Wide River to Cross.” The honored guests were on hand for a respectful tribute to the recently-departed J.J. Cale. While Old Crow had previously added Cale’s “After Midnight” to their set, this night was truly special with the addition of Miller’s swampy guitar licks.
Things wound down at about 10:15, and I was able to make a quick exit out of Music City’s current best alternative to a legitimate outdoor amphitheater. It will be interesting to see if The Woods at Fontenal survives if and when the long discussed venue is finally built downtown on the river. Perhaps Secor was foretelling when he sang “Oh Cumberland River, can’t you hear me singing your song?”
- Dixieland Delight (Alabama cover)
- Carry Me Back to Virginia
- Alabama High-Test
- Take ‘Em Away
- Bootlegger’s Boy
- New Virginia Creeper
- Mississippi Saturday Night
- Mary’s Kitchen
- Raise a Ruckus
- Methamphetamine (with Buddy Miller & Jim Lauderdale)
- CC Rider (Ma Rainey cover with Buddy Miller & Jim Lauderdale)
- Mean World (new song)
- Cumberland River (new song)
- Big Time in the Jungle
- Tennessee Whiskey (George Jones cover with Jim Lauderdale lead vocal)
- Fall On My Knees
- Tear It Down
- I Hear Them All / This Land Is Your Land
- Wagon Wheel
- Cocaine Habit / Tell It To Me
- Hard To Love
- Hot Coffee Sweet Tea
- After Midnight (J.J. Cale cover with Buddy Miller & Jim Lauderdale)
- Wide River To Cross (Buddy Miller cover with Buddy Miller lead vocal)
- American Girl (Tom Petty cover)
Ketch Secor – Vocals, Fiddle, Guitar and Harmonica
Critter Fuqua—Banjo, Guitar, Accordion and Vocals
Kevin Hayes—Guitjo and Vocals
Morgan Jahnig—Stand-up Bass
Gill Landry—Banjo, Guitar and Vocals
Chance McCoy—Fiddle, Guitar, Banjo and Vocals
Cory Younts—Mandolin and Vocals