By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
In 2000, the movie O Brother Where Art Thou? set events in motion that were unprecedented at the time: All of a sudden, there was a revival of old-timey string band music. People, it seemed, just couldn't get enough of mountain music and traditional folk songs from Appalachia.
Four years later, another unlikely scenario came: A five-piece string band turned busking on the street corners of Canada and America into success. And, quite quickly, Old Crow Medicine Show saw its song "Wagon Wheel" turn into a new American standard of sorts.
Now, another five years on, Old Crow Medicine Show is on the road again, supporting last year's Tennessee Pusher. But the disc finds the band evolving beyond its old-time sound.
"Times have changed, and we need songs that reflect today," says the founding and head Crow, Ketch Secor. "The creative process is a fire that is still burning, and we're going to continue to add to that whole body of American songs."
In contrast to the band's two previous albums, which saw the collective recording mostly amped-up reworkings of traditional songs with a few originals sprinkled in, the new effort is composed almost entirely of songs penned by the band.
But things have also come full circle for Old Crow Medicine Show: The band knows its fiscal success now, once again, relies on touring instead of album sales.
Oh well. Back to the basics.
Besides, the success of "Wagon Wheel" and the band's almost-eponymous debut album, OCMS, was hardly a ticket to overnight stardom. Before that disc was released, the band formed in Ithaca, New York, had spent the four years touring and playing anywhere they could in an effort to make a living and spread the word about their music. They were on the road at least 200 days a year.
For Old Crow Medicine Show, touring is just a necessary evil on the road to success.
"The simple fact is people don't go to the record stores," Secor says. "Just by the nature of the increasing availability of music and the instantaneous digital copying, it's very difficult to get people to commit to buying a record. Increasingly, the ways in which bands make money has changed. And the way that Old Crow makes money as a band is by touring."
There are drawbacks to such a realization, though—particularly when it comes to the everyday rigors of being a touring band.
"It's like living next door to a insane person," Secor says. "It's like having a Warren Zevon song living right next door to my head." And it can be an eye-opening adventure, he continues: "Goin' down to Australia and New Zealand is such a thrill to talk with the crowd afterward because it's so exotic.
"But when you play some college town [in the States] there's nothing exotic about a bunch of girls almost pukin' on you."
Good thing they miss most of the time.
"I never grow tired of making music—I just get tired of the things that go with it," Secor says. "There's a burden to bear with any line of work, but [we] will always want to be making music."