Old Crow Medicine Show: For The People

Authenticity is something that you get through time, through walking down a rocky road, wearing holes in the soles of your shoes. If you walk enough miles and absorb enough of the world around you, then when you go to speak you've got something to say that's bigger than just your body or your mouth or your lexicon. That's what the music of Old Crow is trying to be, something bigger than just the five of us put together, singing and sawing and banging on the banjo. [We are] trying to disturb the sterility and stir it up.

-Ketch Secor


Secor doesn't necessarily see OCMS as activist musicians, but rather storytellers in the folk tradition.

Old Crow Medicine Show
"There's the cause, there's like working for peace and justice, but I look at it from a purely musical standpoint. Here you have this opportunity to tell the stories of the castoff and the walked-over and stepped-on. I feel like folk music has always had an important role among the people, as far as being a sounding board for their wants and their desires. It's a stage for their hunger and their calls [against] inequity and injustice," says Secor. "I'm tapped into that, hearing all the protest music of the 1960's and loving Woody Guthrie so much and Pete Seeger. So that's certainly made it into what I want to talk about with music. See, if you're playing fiddle and the banjo you're really playing the music of the people. And if you're singing about getting fucked up in a bar in Colorado, well I mean sure, it depends on where you're at, but if you're talking about some ski town and everyone is playing 1600 beats per second, then it's not really the music of the people now is it? I'm all for the psychedelia of it all. I'm into that too, but when you get down to it, I want to provide something a little more nourishing. You need protein in your diet. You need substance in your music. It's not enough just to sing a pretty song if it doesn't mean anything."

He pauses briefly, and then says rather wistfully, "But if it means love, well you're doing alright. If you can transmit love through music, then that's what it's all about."

Goodness Floats

The band is too recognizable these days to hit the streets like it used to, although, as Secor explains, "Sometimes we still do. It tends to be a little bit more ironic when we do because so many times that we busk people are like, 'Hey, you're the Old Crow Medicine Show! I just paid 23 dollars to see you. What does it cost me now?' So we don't really do a lot of busking [as a group] but on our own, as individuals, [we do]. I've probably played five times on the street corner since 2008 [began]. I like to go back there and get right with the busker gods and make sure I'm still worthy of my spot. I love to see the reactions. Mostly though, people are bored, especially in Nashville. They are here to see country music and then here it is right in front of them and they hold on to their pocket books a little tighter and walk fast."

Old Crow Medicine Show by Aaron Farrington
Busking brings us full circle to a little under ten years ago, to Boone, North Carolina. Doc Watson's daughter spotted a band of "gen-U-ine" troubadours playing outside the pharmacy downtown, guys who had only a few months earlier busked their way across Canada. Some have called these incidents in the band's history lucky breaks, but those breaks were grasped with calloused, worn fingers. In the end, it only comes from real work.

"When people ask, 'How'd you make it work for you?' I always tell 'em, 'You just got to hit the road, just pound the pavement relentlessly. Just go out there and learn, with a kind of journeyman politics [about] being that small level artist on the road.' You just learn so much from traveling, from playing little gigs, from sleeping in people's houses, making those kinds of connections. And those are the things that in the end will lead to your success. It's not about the famous people that you played for, it's definitely not about the people that your management set up for you to play with [or] the times you played at radio stations or the time you played at Capital Records in the lobby. It ain't about that. You might have caught a break but the break was a long time coming if you were true."

"I feel like the goodness tends to float to the surface if it doesn't snuff itself out first," he continues. "We were always going to be on the road to some better place, to something big, as long as we didn't self immolate. And we managed to keep from destructing, which was tested numerous times and is still; you still gotta be wary of it. But bands at the ten-year mark have put a lot behind them just to get that far. Now, it's not about Americana music, it's not about bluegrass, it's not about any of that. It's about one band that people really dig. For a while, in the beginning, it was all about Bob [Dylan] and Jerry, but after ten years it starts becoming about you, and that's when that authenticity card really comes in. It's really important that when it is about you [that] your heart is in the right place."

Old Crow Medicine Show - "Wagon Wheel"

And for a great version of "Minglewood Blues" from Austin City Limits go here.

Old Crow Medicine Show is on tour now. Dates available here.

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[Published on: 11/13/08]

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moephishH2O starstarstarstarstar Thu 11/13/2008 01:34PM
+5 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Caught them on Tuesday in Eugene for the first time and I was blown away! What a great show! I could not believe how packed the McDonald Theater was for a Tuesday night show. Keller tonight and MMW on Saturday!

panicpanicpanic! starstarstarstarstar Thu 11/13/2008 01:59PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


yea these guys are great live, def check em out if they come your way

mandobird starstarstarstarstar Thu 11/13/2008 02:06PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Great read on a great band, Love the new album, keep it up Old Crow.

DELYEAH starstarstarstarstar Thu 11/13/2008 02:29PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Couldn't agree more with the comments above. This band has had me hooked since I first heard their self-titled album. Definitely an incredible live band!

Jukebox Hero Thu 11/13/2008 02:39PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Jukebox Hero

Their first two albums are some of my all-time and they are phenomenal live, but I can't seem to get into the new album. I am a huge David Rawlings fan, so maybe just miss that influence or maybe I need to give a few more spins. I was extremely psyched and have been a little let down. Anybody else have any feelings on this?

goodB3rger13 Thu 11/13/2008 03:52PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I feel the same way Jukebox Hero. It's not that I dislike the new album, but it doesn't have the same feel as the first two. My buddy described it as lacking the "rawness". They are badass live though!! Taking my sister and bro-in-law to see them in Charlotte in a few weeks. They just wanna go b/c they like the wagon wheel song...they don't know what they are in for!!!

PWA starstarstarstarstar Thu 11/13/2008 04:05PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Saw the Saturday Filmore show. It was one of the best Filmore shows I have ever seen! Unbelievable high energy had the place rockin the whole time. US Blues was fucking incredible!

PWA starstarstarstarstar Thu 11/13/2008 04:07PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

One comment wasn't enough, these guys blew my mind!

TransdermalCelebration starstarstarstarstar Thu 11/13/2008 09:19PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Can't wait to see these guys in Boone!

onearmguitarist starstarstarstarstar Fri 11/14/2008 09:14AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I rember the 1st time i saw these guys. I was at the roo and they open the 1st day. i didnt know who they were but at the end of the show they were my new favorite band and the fest highlight. ive seen them about 5 times since then and am always blown away. cant wait for tuesday in salt lake! Not many people know but ocms was not there fist album. Eutaw and live are both underrated, if you havent heard them do yourself a favor and pick them up!

sschaffner starstarstarstarstar Fri 11/14/2008 11:02AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


well, as if i wasn't a big enough fan already... my respect for these guys just went up a few more notches - good article, and wise words from secor. i think i'd like to go get a drink with him some time, perhaps a whiskey 'n water and a conversation about this years crops. what?

redhed starstarstarstarstar Sat 11/15/2008 05:53AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Amazing band, just saw them in Louisville wth the Felice Bros. who kicked ass as well. I celebrate their entire catalog.

shonuff Sun 11/16/2008 11:56AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I saw them last month in Chicago, and they were incredible. After playing two solid hours of bluegrass and country, they came back on stage and played soul rebel. Incredible stuff.

_Sugaree_ starstarstarstar Tue 11/18/2008 09:53AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


O.C.M.S. is pretty f*ckin sweet! Finally saw them back in September, they were great live! Check 'em out if you haven't yet

PickinKind Wed 11/19/2008 02:15PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


definitely dig these folks. however,ive been to two shows (two yrs ago at canopy club in champaign,il and last month at the pageant in stl). the canopy club show ended around 9:30!! it was $18 with no opener,lame. and the stl show didnt last much longer and that was like $25. good band but damn, try to play a decent set for these upcomming shows. your a good band! show it!

landoflizards starstarstarstarstar Fri 11/28/2008 10:59AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

*always lift him up and never let him down*

-great read, and a great band

taperwookie starstarstarstar Thu 12/4/2008 01:33PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Good article, but you'd think a band that is anti-consumerism, for the people, and influenced by the Grateful Dead would allow recording and trading of live shows. I guess I'll keep saving my $23.

eskay231 Fri 12/12/2008 03:19PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

funny how this dude claims how much of an influence the grateful dead were, yet they don't let you record.