A new feel to old-time music7/29/2015
Old Crow Medicine Show — the Virginia-born, Nashville-based seven-piece — has been churning out music that calls back to an old-time country sound since 1998. The band’s sound has developed and matured over the years, thanks in no small measure to the guidance of producers David Rawlings and Ted Hutt.
“David taught us a lot about song craft,” said Old Crow lead vocalist Ketch Secor, talking about bluegrass musician Rawlings, who produced the band’s first two albums. “I like to think that one of the ways that it’s changed (over the years is that) we’re better songwriters now. We can get to the arrangements better now. When we were kids, we just figured you sang as many verses as you could think up, and sang the chorus until people got it.
“Now, we know more about the mechanics of songwriting,” he continued. “I think our songs are better off now, thanks to the blocking that Ted does. It took us all these years to become the band that we always thought we could be.”
The influence of those two men, combined with Old Crow’s innate ability and natural affinity for an old-time country sound, has made the band an important influence for acts like Mumford & Sons and Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. It has also helped the band develop a large and devoted following among country and folk fans and turned the band into some of the youngest inducted members of the Grand Ole Opry.
Opry fans look at Old Crow’s music with hope for the future, as the band best embodies the Opry’s ethos for old-time country music. As mainstream country continues to skew further into the murky waters of bro-country, the Opry stage — and bands like Old Crow — espouses a brand of music that feels increasingly quaint and nostalgic. As the number of acts that consider that sound necessary to keep alive decreases, Old Crow’s importance in country music continues to grow.
“Stylistically, I don’t know if we have any contemporaries,” Secor said. “(Old Crow bandmate Cory Younts) is the youngest male member of the Opry. The only member younger is Carrie Underwood. To say that Carrie and Old Crow are similar certainly wouldn’t be correct. The contemporaries we have on the Opry are these old men with these great stories about the horses they rode. I feel much more akin to Charlie Pride, and Charlie grew up picking cotton! I’ve got nothing on those guys.”
Of course, none of this is to say that Old Crow’s sound is an anachronism. The band is more than just a kind of old-time tribute act, and its live shows are infused with a level of energy and vibrancy that makes it one of the best concert experiences around. From the beginning, the band had a goal of making old-time music sound new and vital. Since its inception, Old Crow has been looking for that sweet spot between honoring its hundred-year-old roots in a modern, hard-driving way.
“We were all raised on some form of hard rock and roll,” Secor explained. “Somewhere along the line, (band co-founder Critter Fuqua) and I decided that we wanted to write old-time music, but we didn’t want to stop rocking. To me, the old-time music that we’re playing now is closer to the music that we wanted to write in the first place.”
And in Secor’s mind, there’s only one way to really experience what he is talking about.
“We are a live band,” he said. “If you want to know who we really are, you have to see us in concert. We haven’t had any success to speak of on television or on radio. Our success has been in front of a couple thousand people in your hometown. That’s where we shine. It’s right in front of you.” CV