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Old Crow Medicine Show goes in right direction

Club Passim, Cambridge, Mass., June 2 2004

By Jeffrey B. Remz

CAMBRIDGE, MA - To say that Old Crow Medicine Show is just a bit left of center would be an understatement.

The quintet, sort of the BR549 of the old time/bluegrass field, play music that hardly anyone does these days. They're not straight bluegrass and not exactly mainline country either. Don't expect to hear any blazing guitars as they're acoustic. And forget about any big drum - no drums allowed.

And they certainly have aspirations higher than the bluegrass bins as well. And maybe that's why they signed with Nettwerk America, which has no other country acts.

One would think that Old Crow would have its work cut out for them, that is, until witnessing them in concert.

In fact, this is a higher energy group with a good stage presence and lots of good songs and music to match.

Apparently a lot of people knew that already as the 123-seat room, far more often home to pure folk acts than this type of music, was SRO in the group's first Boston-area appearance.

The group is spearheaded by acoustic guitarist Willie Watson and Ketch Secor on fiddle. Both took turns doing vocals on a variety of songs with similar ability. They tended to mix it up between ballads and fast-paced songs, which seemed a tad stronger.

Many of the songs OCMS performed were traditional, but they also wrote some of their own material. Set highlights included a strong version of "CC Rider" with Weeks on vocals and the sad opener, "Poor Man" where Weeks sang "There ain't a thing for a poor man in this world."

What makes the group stand out are their musical abilities as well as the high energy they bring to the music. At times, they had Kevin Hayes going on what they called a guit-jo though it looked and sounded awfully like a banjo along with Critter Fuqua on banjo. Morgan Jahng on upright bass also provided spark at various points.

And the group doesn't necessarily take themselves too seriously. Fuqua was called "Butch Hobson" by ringleader Secor, referring to the former manager of the Boston Red Sox.

Give Old Crow Medicine Show for doing it their own way apparently. And they're doing one hell of a job that way. They may be left of center, but it seems like they also know which direction they want to take and do it exceedingly well.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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