Old Crow throws down rollicking old-timey music
Ever wonder what happens to those kids who are into antiques at age 7? Who like to play marbles more than Nintendo? Evidently, they pick up fiddles and gitjos and never look back. “Everyone liked Jose Canseco, and I wanted to get Bob Fuller,” said Ketch Secor, fiddle player for Old Crow Medicine Show, about his baseball collection as a kid. “I liked all the old cards from the ’60s when everyone else liked Cal Ripken.”Old Crow Medicine Show has taken the country by storm with rollicking old-timey music that displays the utmost in fine picking and singing. They play today at the Belly Up. Doors open at 8 p.m.”I just knew I loved this music,” Secor said. “I grew up singing folk songs, wanting to play the banjo and fiddle. John Hartford came to my school when I was a little kid. I wanted to get a derby hat. I always wanted things that were old.”At a time when many bands are playing around with synthesizers and effects pedals, when loops are the norm and a drum machine isn’t unexpected, it can be refreshing to see a band truly going back the roots. “I can get with hip-hop music,” Secor said. “But when it comes to looping a sequence on-stage, having a scratch track, f— that. I’m a f-ing violin player. I saw. I don’t want to saw in a binary code system.”Ummm, OK, old-fashioned in their music. It’s not like these guys won’t go play at Bonnaroo, wear indie clothes and have foul mouths. And the music is fast enough that you can dance as crazy as any techno beat. It’s just, where else are you going to hear a gitjo? Yep, that’d be Kevin Hayes on that there gitjo: a six-string banjo tuned like a guitar. How’s that for an old-timey feel? There’s also Critter Fuqua on banjo, resonator guitar and vocals; Morgan Jahnig on upright bass; Willie Watson on guitar, banjo and vocals; and Secor plays fiddle, harmonica, banjo and does some singing. “We have it worked out in Old Crow that we can pass left or right,” Secor said. “Everybody can play everything. I can’t play the accordion. I love it. I just never got keyed. I know my strings real well but I never learned those keys. The harmonica is the closest I got to an instrument that’s mapped out.”The band, which started at eight people, got their start busking on streets around North America and had their first big break down in Boone, N.C., where a woman stopped and asked if she could get her dad to come listen. He turned out to be none other than one of the most famous flat-pickers in the world, Doc Watson. After hearing the band play, Watson invited Old Crow to MerleFest, his four-day summer festival of acoustic and roots music. That led to an invitation to busk outside the Grand Ole Opry House. And enough people stopped to watch and dance that eventually the Medicine Show played on the inside. They received a rare debut standing ovation that led to opening gigs with the likes of the Del McCoury Band and Dolly Parton.Even so, their roots remain in busking. Secor said that he first started thinking about it while growing up in New Orleans and seeing how people would stop and listen to someone playing on the street.”It adds to the cultural vibrancy of place,” he said. “It’s good for the air. It’s amazing how it can feel like that. You get a bunch of guys together and get them to create a wave of joy and ruckus and groove that spills out into the sounds of ambulances and bus stops and cell phones and pagers. In the midst of it all comes this one pure tone, it’s something very special. Secor says that not much has changed. “We learned to adapt to a stage,” he said. “All of those things I was talking about are happening inside a club, theater or festival. There’s the hot dogs, sauerkraut, a lot of photos being taken, inane conversations on cell phones, lines for the bathroom and in the midst of all that humanity is the show.”Playing on the street gave them some of the guts and balls it takes to get people really swinging. Old Crow isn’t afraid to leave it all on the stage.”It goes both ways,” Secor said. “A high-energy show requires a high-energy audience. It bounces back and forth.”Secor, who has family in Woody Creek, said he’s excited to come back to the area for a show. “I can’t wait to get up there,” he said. “We played there with Gillian, at the Wheeler, it was beautiful. Great room, a lot of wood. I’m thrilled, very thrilled to be coming back to Aspen.”Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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