Old Crow Medicine show looks back to move forward
There’s something to be said for holding on to old high school journals and notebooks — at least Old Crow Medicine Show’s Chris “Critter” Fuqua thinks so. He says It’s important to not only stay in touch with who you were but also to respect the things you made when you were young.
Fuqua said, “You tend to think the stuff you wrote when you were younger isn’t as good as what you did when you’re older, when actually it might just be the reverse.”
Old Crow Medicine Show has mined older material before. The alt-country/Americana band, which headlines a special Clay Center show Saturday night at Appalachian Power Park, had its biggest hit to date with the ubiquitous “Wagon Wheel.” The song was a “collaboration” between songwriter Bob Dylan and Old Crow’s Ketch Secor.
Dylan sketched a tune called “Rock Me Mama” that was an outtake from the “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid” soundtrack (the same album that featured “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”). About 20 years ago, when they were in high school, Secor got a copy of the partial tune from a bootleg Dylan record belonging to Fuqua. He wrote lyrics and reworked it until it became what is now the band’s signature song.
The guys have to be hoping that lightning strikes twice. On their new record, “Remedy,” they teamed up with Dylan again for a song called “Sweet Amarillo.”
Only this time around, they didn’t get the song by cribbing it from an obscure Dylan recording.
“Bob approved it and sent it to us,” Fuqua said.
It’s even on the bootleg with the same outtakes as the tune that spawned “Wagon Wheel.”
“That’s probably a big song for us on the record,” he said.
But “Sweet Amarillo” isn’t the only song that’s taken from older material. Fuqua said when the band members were choosing songs, they considered and then included some of their own older material, like “8 Dogs and 8 Banjos,” which Secor wrote when he was 17.
Fuqua said, “We played it in the Route 11 Boys.”
Secor formed The Route 11 Boys toward the end of high school, and Fuqua said they’ve played the song off and on for years.
He added, “It’s simple, direct and danceable. It just works.”
Fuqua said there’s a certain purity to some of the songs he and Secor wrote when they were teenagers. They didn’t really know where their boundaries were then.
“I had no fear writing,” he said. “I didn’t know if it was going to be good or not. I just wrote it.”
Fuqua called “Remedy” a real group effort, but it also represents his creative return to the band.
Fuqua and Secor started playing music together as kids. They came up as musicians together, went to workshops at the Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins when they were teenagers, toured tirelessly and struggled to build the band.
Then just when the band seemed to be hitting its stride, Fuqua left Old Crow Medicine Show in 2007 to get sober and go to college. He rejoined in 2012 but had little to do with the band’s two records in between.
“Well, I’m on this one,” he laughed. “Me and Ketch co-wrote a lot, but we all wrote songs. It was a real grassroots effort with everyone writing and playing.”
It was just great to be back, he said.
“Recording ‘Remedy’ was probably the most fun I’ve ever had being in the studio.
“It’s a great album. Really. I guarantee it.”
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