VISITING ACT: Old Crow Medicine Show 

New Days for Old Crows: Talkin' methamphetamine blues with Old Crow's Ketch Secor

Old Crow Medicine Show
w/ The Felice Brothers
Sun. Feb. 8
8 p.m.
$26, $20/adv.
North Charleston Performing Arts Center
5001 Coliseum Drive
(843) 529-5050

"Mary's Kitchen" from the album Tennessee Pusher
Audio File

The Old Crow Medicine Show's story couldn't be more storybook. The world's most popular jugband got their break when Doc Watson heard them jamming on a Boone, N.C., street corner. With sing-along hits like "Wagon Wheel," they've translated their loose harmonies into mainstream success, even opening for the Dave Matthews Band on their last summer tour.

As the usually drummerless Old Crow ages, their sound matures. Tennessee Pusher, their recent studio release, even includes drums on several tracks. True to form, the man behind that transforming sound is veteran drummer Jim Keltner. When Old Crow progresses, they do it in style. Still, the topics remain the same. Rambling, cocaine, social injustice, and so on.

Ketch Secor, Old Crow's unofficial front-man, is as much of a poet in an interview as in his lyrical work. He took a break from performing at a folk festival in Ann Arbor last week to chat with City Paper about the state of the Crow in 2009.

On writing new songs:

"It doesn't happen on the road, that's for sure. But you're always storing up information. It's like you take a roll of film of all your adventures, and when you get home you get a chance to develop it and see what turned out. You know, walking through all these towns that we hit, and being very much involved with writing American music, it's really a great opportunity to get in touch with 2009 America, north or south. Just to get sense of what's going on, and what sort of issues are worth a song. Who do you want to last forever? Who do you immortalize in song?"

On the working class:

"We had a beautiful little trip to Kentucky on this little run that we're on, and we met all the people that came to our show in the middle of an ice storm. It was people who had saved up money to come out to a show, people who worked the kind of jobs you go to a community college after work because you want to get out of them. To have our music reach them and be a part of their lives is the most satisfying thing you can ask for as a musician."

On touring Australia and New Zealand:

"What I'm most excited about is the fact that we're going to be putting four fiddles, six guitars, three or four banjos, and an upright bass, and about 35 harmonicas into the belly of an airplane and fly to the opposite end of the world to go play them."

On writing a song ("Wagon Wheel") that people relentlessly scream out for:

"It's really an honor to be the bearer of a young 'Freebird.' I feel like I brought it into the room, and I'm going to let it find its own way out. The fact that 'Wagon Wheel' is sort of an anthem, people suspend their disbelief. It's debatable. It's not 'The Weight,' but, you know, if you're 17 and you're going to North Charleston High or 15 and living out on Folly Beach, and you find your big sister's record collection, and you hear a song about lighting a joint and hitchhiking ... I mean, c'mon. What's the difference between that and when I heard 'Tangled Up in Blue' when I was 12 and it blew my mind?"

On their biggest headlining show yet in Charleston:

"Success is a double-edged sword. I'm really glad that we're able to make people smile as widely as we've been able to in the past couple of months. The Palmetto State, y'all know how to get cooking down there. You always have ... There's so many songs in the Lowcountry. The landscape even seems to be singing ... We'll bring the fiddles and y'all get the rice boiling."


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