Old Crow Medicine Show digs deep 

click to enlarge Old Crow Medicine Show’s vintage sound is popular among country and Americana fans. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Old Crow Medicine Show’s vintage sound is popular among country and Americana fans.
Explaining the elusive magic of his punk-bluegrass outfit Old Crow Medicine Show, vocalist-fiddle player Ketch Secor recalls a true story. Recently, he was bicycling along White River in Indianapolis when he happened upon a baby rattlesnake. He squealed to a halt to watch it, as did four BMX kids who arrived a minute later.

“Me and these gangly 13-year-olds just looked at that snake for a long time, until it slithered off. And I think it was more quietude than those boys have ever experienced or accepted. And that’s the gift of our music – to give people something a little deeper,” says the musician, whose band plays The City’s newly renovated Masonic on Saturday.

The Nashville-based Secor firmly believes that an honest, heartfelt tune can actually save your life.

“It really can – just one great song – and once you get turned on to one, you realize how many others there are, and the power within them all,” he says. Since 1998, for five albums – including the exuberant new Ted-Hutt-produced “Remedy” – he’s been doing his best to pen a catalog of classics. While neither the country nor Americana worlds initially accepted Old Crow, the group today is welcomed by both.

The bandleader’s good fortune kicked off in 2000, when Doc Watson’s daughter discovered Old Crow busking outside a pharmacy in Boone, N.C., and brought her father along.

Wowed, Watson invited the group to play his annual MerleFest, and word began to spread. Rockabilly king Marty Stuart took them under his rhinestoned wing on Music Row, leading to an induction into the Grand Ole Opry last year. And the Railroad Revival Tour, with Mumford & Sons and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, spawned the Grammy-winning 2013 documentary “Big Easy Express.”

Bob Dylan offered Secor vintage unreleased music that was chiseled into Old Crow’s signature tune “Wagon Wheel,” which became a Top 40 hit for Darius Rucker. Dylan then donated more circa-1973 sounds for “Remedy,” which Secor morphed into the waltzing “Sweet Amarillo,” alongside fiery-fiddled hoedowns such as “Tennessee Bound,” “8 Dogs 8 Banjos,” and the loping, Watson-dedicated “Doc’s Day.”

Dave Matthews snapped up the disc for his ATO imprint.

“All these things are the stuff that dreams are made of,” says Secor, 38, who often guests on Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion. “When you’re 15 and you know how to play 15 old-time tunes on the banjo, you’re dreaming out loud. So it’s just been a wonderful surprise to wake up in those dreams, and find that they’re real.”


Old Crow Medicine Show

Where: Masonic, 1111 California St., S.F.

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Tickets: $37.50 to $62.50

Contact: (877) 598-8497, www.SFMasonic.com

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Tom Lanham

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