A good old-fashioned show
While every streetcorner musician or performer might not necessarily be dreaming of hitting it big, if they get an opportunity – say a YouTube clip that goes viral or the right person happens to walk by at the right time – they likely won’t turn it down. Americana string band Old Crow Medicine Show, who was discovered playing on the street by legendary bluegrass musician Doc Watson, will be the first to tell you that it could be your ticket to the big time.
Nearly 20 years later, with multiple accolades under their belt – including two Grammy Awards and a certified platinum designation for their song “Wagon Wheel” – the Old Crow Medicine Show is one of the most well-known acts in the genre of bluegrass and Americana. The group will perform at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 23 at the Community Arts Center, 220 W. Fourth St.
“Through nearly 20 years of travels and travails we remain united by our passion for playing American roots music,” Ketch Secor, one of the founding members – who sings and plays fiddle, harmonica, banjo, guitar and mandolin – said in an intervew with the Sun-Gazette. “It’s one of only a few truly inexhaustible American resources. It just keeps giving, pouring out, and our cup keeps running over.”
It was 1998 when Watson heard Old Crow Medicine Show busking – the term given to street musicians or performers accepting tips – outside of a pharmacy in Boone, North Carolina. The original members had been performing up and down the east coast for several years, gaining notoriety as much for their musical talents as for their high-energy live performances.
After Watson invited the group to perform at his own MerleFest, Old Crow’s popularity became more widespread and they were invited to multiple other festivals, including Bonnaroo, the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival and the iconic Newport Folk Festival.
The group – made up of current members Secor, Critter Fuqua, Kevin Hayes, Morgan Jahnig, Chance McCoy and Cory Younts – has released five studio albums, including “O.C.M.S.” (2004), “Big Iron World” (2006), “Tennessee Pusher” (2008), “Carry Me Back” (2012) and “Remedy” (2014). The latter won the Grammy for Best Folk Album in 2015.
Old Crow is arguably best-known for their song “Wagon Wheel,” which was cowritten by music icon Bob Dylan and has been covered by several artists, including Darius Rucker, whose version reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country chart. In April 2013, the song was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America for selling more than 1 million copies.
Throughout everything the group has taken on throughout the years, even touring worldwide and performing for enormous crowds can’t top the enjoyment the group gets from playing in small towns, according to Secor.
“Old Crow has made a career of playing in small towns around the country,” he said of the upcoming show in Williamsport. “We’re such a hometown band; our sound is accessible in any region. We offer a kind of music that is more stylistically American than it is country or rock and roll, so we tend to fit right in in the places that consider themselves all-American as opposed to a place that has a nativist identity.”
The group also takes pleasure in playing in towns for the first time, Secor said, noting that it’s “increasingly rare” to go to a place they’ve never been.
It also offers a chance to learn a new story or two, he added.
“We always enjoy playing in towns for the first time,” he said. “I am always on the lookout for the signposts that tell the story of a town. What is its history, is there a river, a famous figure, an event, or legend that offers an entry point into the mystery of a place. Folk music, the kind we make, is made up of stories like these.”
For more information or to buy tickets, visit www.caclive.com.