If you were not at the Old Crow Medicine Show concert this past Sunday evening and you’re a fan of folk/alt-country/Americana music, then do yourself a favour and plan to be there the next time the Crow flies into town.
There is a good chance you may not have heard of this band before, but at the same time there is a very small chance you have not heard their signature song, Wagon Wheel, somewhere along the way:
“Rock me mama like a wagon wheel, rock me mama anyway you feel, hey mama rock me.”
If you haven’t heard their own version, chances are you’ve at least heard it sung by artists like Matt Andersen, Darius Rucker, or by numerous cover bands over the past number of years since the now-platinum single had its release in 2004.
And what took place at the Old Crow Medicine Show concert at The Murphy Centre in Charlottetown on Sunday night was actually not just a fiery performance by an award-winning, chart-topping act from Nashville, but a textbook demonstration on how to do an engaging show as a touring band.
The evening kicked off at 7 p.m., as hundreds of the still-arriving crowd enjoyed an opening set by special guest, Shakey Graves.
“Kicked” is the key word here, too, as the solo guitarist/singer-songwriter from Austin, Tex., used kick pedals wisely, standing with both of his heels mounted on kick pedals that were attached to a bass drum (made out of an old blue suitcase) and a tambourine behind him.
Shakey Graves was indeed a one-man-band, as he delivered a hugely well-received 45-minute set that finished off with a rocker of a tune called Late July.
At about 8:10 p.m., the pumped up crowd hollered in cheers as the seven-piece Old Crow Medicine Show took to the stage and began filling that old gymnasium with the pounding old-time sound of the south.
Songs like Alabama High Test, Big Time in the Jungle, Caroline and Bootlegger’s Boy thundered in twanging resonance around us, propelled by the instrumentation of a banjo, two guitars, keyboard, bass and even two fiddles at times (along with drums, harmonica and mandolin at other points).
“If you’re gonna play in Prince Edward Island, ya gotta have two fiddles in the band,” lead singer Ketch Secor said, after the rollicking song, We Don’t Grow Tobacco.
“It’s funny, it feels like a high school dance,” he added at that point, commenting on the gymnasium. “We should all go to the beach after this and make out. I got a friend who can buy us beer,” he smiled, as huge laughs echoed back at him.
And as their set continued on, it became really clear that these guys were just doing everything right. They were engaging with the dancin’-it-up crowd before them; they had limitless energy; they were rhythmically tight yet loose and flowing on stage; they played their hits and did so with precision and passion (especially for Wagon Wheel, as the cell phone cameras were out in full force in the audience. They even paid great regional attention to us.
“Alright, well we learned a new song earlier out by the dumpster,” said Secor, as the band then paraded into that familiar groove of Bud the Spud - while the crowd erupted in applause.
And that was not it for the regional homages. Secor expressed his love for the Island and the Maritimes at several other points in the set, and as the night carried through to its end, and as it all just became one big hoedown barn dance in the encore, the show even ended on a perfectly fitting Maritime note on the 30-year anniversary of Stan Rogers’ passing — the band all in a circle at centre stage, singing the entirety of Barrett’s Privateers, in one powerful a cappella finale performance.
So now you see why the next time you see the name Old Crow Medicine Show advertised, you need to make it a point to be there among the people that know where to find the right kind of folk musical medicine - if the Crow ever flies this far north again, that is!
Next week: The Great Gatsby Bash at Haviland Club tomorrow night.
Todd MacLean is a local freelance writer and musician. If you have a comment or suggestion for a review, you can get in touch with him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 626-1242. But he won’t be offended if you don’t.
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