Old Crow Medicine Show perform Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde@ CMA Theatre at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum / Nashville TN / May 13, 2016

DSCN2743The idea of a band covering another artist’s full LP in its entirety has been done before. Cheap Trick’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Flaming Lips’ Dark Side of the Moon and Blitzen Trapper’s Harvest are a few that come to mind.

However, could there be one as challenging to celebrate as Dylan’s 1966 masterpiece, Blonde on Blonde? Not only is this a double-record set (Rock’s first), but it has about as many words to remember as there are numbers in a small town phone directory. (For the record, there are 4,293 words in the lyrics.) Also, the LP was graced with the masterful musicianship of the studio session giants known as the Nashville Cats.

DSCN2774The Hall of Fame’s thought of honoring the record recorded here in Music City 50 years ago was a brilliant one, and a great tie in with its current Dylan, Cash and the Nashville Cats: A New Music City exhibit. Local musical treasure, Peter Cooper, and the Museum team had the perfect victim for this overwhelming project: Old Crow Medicine Show who accepted, owned and nailed it.

DSCN2749The result was two shows in the Halls’ gorgeous new 800-seat CMA Theatre. For some reason, this concert news stayed a little under the radar making a ticket score much easier than one of Old Crow’s annual New Year’s Eve Ryman shows. Both nights eventually sold out, and yours truly was forever blessed to be there for the Friday night wrap-up. It was one of those nights that makes me so thankful I live in Nashville.

DSCN2750The record revitalization began with the band marching on stage in a musical procession led by two carried drums laying the backbeat to Dylan’s message that “Everybody must get stoned.” Each and every song that then followed was a unique delight. It was obvious that the band put a lot of work into developing fresh arrangements for each song. While each certainly had the Old Crow style, all stayed faithful to the mood and emotion of the originals.

DSCN2757Although Critter Fuqua helped with lead vocals on a couple of songs (by himself on “One of Us Must Know” and “4th Time Around” plus co-leads on “I Want You” and “Temporary Like Achilles”), and Kevin Hayes donned the subject hat to prance about while singing “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat,” most of the lead vocal work went to front man Ketch Secor. The fact that he managed to remember all those lyrics without a teleprompter is incredible. Don’t forget that there are three songs that run over seven minutes long! This includes “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” which takes up an entire side of the second platter! (Somehow the Crows sped this 11-minute number down to eight.)

DSCN2767The boys did take a much deserved short break between sides of the record. Several songs throughout the night also brought standing ovations and deservedly so. Even the lesser-known songs on side three were handled with extreme care. And throughout, like any Old Crow show, the band was exciting to watch visually, revealing as many different formations as a football team trying to confuse the defense.

DSCN2781With all the hard work that went into learning the record, it would have been understood if they passed on an encore. Or perhaps it would be fitting for them to play “Wagon Wheel,” their highly successful unsolicited co-write of an unfinished Dylan track. Nope. They took the time to learn two more Bob tracks: a soft laid-back “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” sang from the edge of the stage and a frolicking “Quinn the Eskimo” that sent us home.

With all the effort that went into arranging and learning these numbers, it certainly would be a shame if it were just for these two shows. Well, don’t fret, both nights were filmed, and it’s quite likely that a DVD will be in the works. It’s one you will want to see.

DSCN2754Oh yeah—I also hope that Ketch’s repeated remarks about putting Bob Dylan into the Country Music Hall of Fame were not heard by deaf ears. It’s about time for the rock influences on country music of people like Dylan and Gram Parsons to be honored.

SETLIST:
Blonde on Blonde

      1. Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35
      2. Pledging My Time
      3. Visions of Johanna
      4. One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)
      5. I Want You
      6. Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again
      7. Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
      8. Just Like a Woman
      9. Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine
      10. Temporary Like Achilles
      11. Absolutely Sweet Marie
      12. 4thTime Around
      13. Obviously 5 Believers
      14. Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands

Encore

      1. Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
      2. Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)

BAND:
Ketch Secor—Fiddle, Banjo, Guitar, Harmonica and Vocals Critter Fuqua—Banjo, Guitar, Dobro, Accordion, Drums and Vocals Kevin Hayes—Guitjo and Vocals Morgan Jahnig—Stand-up Bass Chance McCoy—Fiddle, Guitar and Vocals
Cory Younts—Mandolin, Keyboards, Drums and Vocals
with
Joe Andrews—Pedal Steel, Mandolin and Dobro
Robert Price—Drums

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