Old Crow Medicine Show bringing its American roots music to the Rose

Frontman Ketch Secor (left front) and his bandmates in contemporary string band Old Crow Medicine Show, performing at Rose Music Center in Huber Heights on Saturday, Aug. 14, produced the online music program, “Hartland Hootenanny,” during the coronavirus shutdowns.
Caption
Frontman Ketch Secor (left front) and his bandmates in contemporary string band Old Crow Medicine Show, performing at Rose Music Center in Huber Heights on Saturday, Aug. 14, produced the online music program, “Hartland Hootenanny,” during the coronavirus shutdowns.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Band produces online TV episodes, topical singles

It’s rare for an established group like Old Crow Medicine Show to get a chance to step off the treadmill for an extended period with no responsibilities. The contemporary string band, performing at Rose Music Center in Huber Heights on Saturday, Aug. 14, took advantage of the unexpected downtime during the coronavirus shutdowns to produce the online series, “Hartland Hootenanny.”

“Doing ‘Hartland Hootenanny’ really kept the juices flowing and it kept the band united and focused on something,” frontman Ketch Secor said recently, speaking over his cell phone from a tour stop in Minnesota. “It would’ve been just as easy to furlough everybody and say, ‘Alright, see you when the world opens up again.’ Instead, we took on this crazy challenge of writing a live TV show every Saturday night for 30 weeks.”

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Secor hosted the humorous music program featuring themed episodes and special guests like Marty Stuart, Chely Wright, Billy Strings and Molly Tuttle.

“We covered a range of topics,” Secor said. “We did a show all about football even though I don’t know much about football. We did a show all about summer camp, which I had a few things to add to. We did one about the moon. There were a lot of different ways to be creative.

“Then, every night there was a different special guest,” he continued. “They were all really high caliber performers so I made a lot of friends through this. I made like 20 new friends, whose numbers I have and now I text them regularly or go on dates. A lot of good times have come out of being open to this experience and trying to get creative.”

A little backstory

Being creative has been a driving force for Old Crow Medicine Show since the Grammy-winning group’s earliest days as street buskers in 1998. That same year saw the release of the 10-song cassette, “Trans:mission.” In 2000, everything changed when musician Doc Watson happened upon Secor and his bandmates playing in front of the same pharmacy in Boone, North Carolina he’d performed outside of decades earlier. Watson invited the band to perform at his popular festival, MerleFest, which opened new avenues for Old Crow.

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A move to Nashville that October led to even more new possibilities for the purveyors of old-time American roots music. In 2004, Nettwerk Records released “O.C.M.S,” which featured the group’s signature song, “Wagon Wheel.” The album was also number one on the bluegrass album charts, as was each subsequent release. Old Crow, inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2013, signed with Columbia Records in 2017. The group released it latest studio album, “Volunteer,” in 2018, followed by “Live at the Ryman” in 2019.

Songs of unity

Old Crow has completed a new album, but a release date hasn’t been announced. In the meantime, there has been no shortage of new material. In 2020 and 2021, the group has released digital singles focused on current events like “Quarantine,” “Pray for America” and “Nashville Rising.”

“As a banjo player, I’m not alone in addressing social issues with song,” Secor said. “I learned to do that because I was a fan of Pete Seger, who is one of the most important banjo players of all time. Being a student of Pete’s, I knew how important it was to talk of unity in the midst of discord. I’ve felt a lot of discord this past several years and I just want to sing and bring people together. Music, live music and recorded music, makes a circle in hearts that draws people together.”

Unlike some artists, Secor doesn’t shy away from controversial issues.

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“Making your music be a lightning rod, a wrecking ball or plowshare beaten out of a sword, that’s the kind of thing we need to do,” he said. “Those of us who’ve got an audience, have to remind people we’ve got to love one another. We’ve got to find ways to make solutions so there can be peace.

“Nowadays, it’s so important to speak with grace and humility because it’s really easy to scream,” Secor continued. “I don’t think we can draw people together without forgiveness and acceptance. We’re not all going to think the same. It’s just not going to happen but that doesn’t mean we can’t love each other. We all have errors, sins and flaws but that doesn’t mean we can’t all get together. We belong together.”

Keb’ Mollaboration

Old Crow continued the topical approach on its current single, “Medicine Man,” a collaboration with Keb’ Mo’ extolling the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We loved working with Keb’ Mo’ on this project,” Secor said. “I’ve wanted to work with Keb’ for so long and it has been so cool getting to be friends. We met at the Grand Ole Opry about five years ago and I’ve sort of been chipping away, trying to get to know him better. Finally, I called him out of the blue and said, ‘Come on, let’s do something.’ And, we did it.

“It’s been really fun to have a topical song that has some humor and a little bit of rib-poking but with a very serious message,” Secor added. “I will say it adamantly and I have no shame in saying it, ‘Get vaccinated.’ We don’t want anybody to get sick at our concerts. I hate to play any role in that so I urge folks to go visit the medicine man.”

Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or e-mail at donthrasher100@gmail.com.

HOW TO GO

Who: Old Crow Medicine Show with special guest Molly Tuttle

Where: Rose Music Center, 6800 Executive Blvd., Huber Heights

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 14. Doors open at 7 p.m.

Cost: $23.50-$63

More info: 513-232-6220 or www.rosemusiccenter.com

Artist info: crowmedicine.com