Old Crow Medicine Show, New Daisy Theatre, Memphis, TN – 1/20
Photos by Ellis Jones
On this January evening, a rare snowstorm in Memphis did little to deter fans of Old Crow Medicine Show. The New Daisy Theatre was packed and buzzing with anticipation shortly after the doors opened. It is an intimate club at the end of historic Beale Street with great acoustics, making it an ideal place to see this exceptional act.
Old Crow’s unique sound, which blends bluegrass, folk and alternative country, always brings a diverse crowd, and this night was no exception. Conservative men wearing cowboy hats filed in, as did free-spirited hippies, all impelled by the same powerful music. The crowd gave the band a down home welcome around eight when they took the stage. I was anxious to hear them myself, it being my first show without founding member Critter Faqua. It did not take long for the boys to put my mind at ease, for their authentic sound was still shining bright.
The first set took off with “Hard To Love” and their pristine string sound surrounded the hall. Ketch Secor’s energy was infectious as they ripped through the classic. This evening, he was the band’s leader and did little to hide his intentions. He conversed with the crowd often, telling inside jokes while establishing his roots in the area. Musically, he was a monster, advancing the jams regardless what instrument he was playing. “Down Home Girl” and “I Hear Them All” followed, with the band sounding flawless.
Old Crow used this evening to play an abundance of new material. Still, the songs were so well-crafted and varied in style, they did not cause the set to lose momentum. Morgan Jahnig’s consistent bass playing led the band through a couple, freeing up the band to explore all musical avenues. Kevin Hayes’ guitjo sounded majestic jamming with all the other string instruments. Six musicians strong, their sound takes you to bluegrass heaven. Guitars strum while the fiddle, mandolin and harp all sing.
The music produced a lump in my throat and pep in my step when a satisfying “Caroline” was played – a personal favorite of mine. It was evident by this point that not one man was taking Critter’s place, though Gill Landry has great chemistry with the band. They shared in his vocal duties and all stepped up their role in the music. Once the crowd danced their way through rousing renditions of “Flookie” and “Minglewood,” the group took a much deserved break.A blistering version of “Wheeling Breakdown” got the second set stirring with its fiddle-driven bluegrass jams and intense pace. “Raise A Ruckus” followed and the various fans in attendance were doing just that. Cory Younts put on a mandolin clinic all night, but really shined on the new material. This was evident over the majority of the next hour where the medicine was comprised of mostly new tunes – they sounded polished and I enjoyed making their acquaintance. Then fans were brought back to familiar territory for the last few numbers. “Hard To Tell” was inspiring and got the building rocking once more. Next up was my highlight, the blues cover “C.C. Rider.” It was played more like a folk song to great ends. Ketch’s harmonica playing was electrifying as he seemed possessed by the ghosts of Beale Street. The band then led the sing-a-long on the classic, “Wagon Wheel,” vesting it with energy as the faithful rejoiced. The night ended with a brilliant “Tell It Finale” wrapping up a night filled with old gems and fresh songs. Old Crow Medicine Show is moving forward with this roster and if this evening was any indication of what is to come, things are looking up.