Old Crow Medicine Show Does Dylan Better Than Dylan
Is that a sacrilegious statement? Possibly, but even the most ardent fans of Bob Dylan (and specifically of his seminal album Blonde on Blonde) have to admit that Dylan’s vocals have never been what drew his fans to him.
Old Crow Medicine Show, a band that reveres Dylan, is currently touring to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the release of Blonde on Blonde. They may be putting their bluegrass/Americana spin on the songs, but there is no doubt they are paying homage to one of the greatest songwriters of all time.
They appeared recently at the Orpheum Theatre in Boston. Prior to the show, I saw many people queued at the box office to ask for their money back because they did not realize they were coming to a Dylan show. Seriously??? If you see a show described as “Old Crow Medicine Show – 50 Years of Blonde on Blonde” and you did not understand what that is, would you not research it? Nobody got their money back as far as I know and hopefully they came in and enjoyed the show.
This was not my first time seeing Old Crow, but it is quite possibly the show of theirs I enjoyed most. I am sure it is in part due to my knowing all the songs, but also due to my knowing the band better.
This is a group of supremely talented musicians. Ketch Secor on fiddle, harmonica, banjo, and vocals; Chance McCoy on guitar, fiddle, banjo, and vocals; Critter Fuqua on slide guitar, banjo, guitar, and vocals; Cory Younts on mandolin, keyboards, drums, and vocals; Kevin Hayes (from Massachusetts!) on guitjo and vocals; and Morgan Jahnig on upright bass comprise the band. For this show, Joe Andrews performed with them on bass drum, banjo, pedal steel, mandolin and dobro.
They began the show with a choreographed march onto the stage with an instrumental introduction into ‘Rainy Day Women #12 & 35’ which was fun to watch! They had the entire audience singing the most iconic lines from the song with them – ‘But I would not feel so all alone/Everybody must get stoned’. If there were audience members who were not convinced they would enjoy the show, this should have changed their minds.
From that fabulous beginning, they played two sets, each consisting of one volume of the two-volume set, played in order.
There was a woman in the audience who sported a leopard skin pill-box hat in honor of the song of that name! Please excuse the quality of the photo below – it was taken with my phone, not my camera.
One of the things I enjoy most about Old Crow is their versatility as musicians. Each member of the band plays multiple instruments and they play them oh so well. Ketch sings most of the lead vocals, but others got a few chances to sing lead. Their harmonies are sublime, and added a depth to the songs that I did not imagine was possible.
They played a four-song encore which consisted of three other Dylan songs – ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’, ‘Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)’, and ‘You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere’ – but ended the show with the only Old Crow song of the evening. Yes, you guessed it, ‘Wagon Wheel’. They were thrilled to have the audience singing the chorus along with them, and Ketch turned the mic toward the auditorium to capture our voices.
One thing that I particularly enjoyed about this performance was that they spoke about their day in Boston and how much they enjoyed it. I for one appreciate when a band knows where they are and has taken some time to explore the area. I realize that time is not always built into a band’s schedule, but when it is, it is gratifying to know that they use the time well. (I recall a show I attended where the artist – who I will not name but is related to Dylan – disrespected the town in which he was performing and was heavily booed.)
This was an incredible show; if they are coming to a city near you on the remainder of their tour, do yourself a favor and see it. I would be surprised if you do not love it.
This review was originally published on Suze Reviews the Blues, where you can see a full set of photographs from the show.
Thanks to Old Crow Medicine Show for the ticket; all opinions are my own.