November 29, 2012
House of Blues - Dallas
Dallas, TX USA
Review by David Huff
Photos by Crystal Prather
Old Crow Medicine Show
Down Home Wingding
To be honest, I wasn't planning on watching the Old Crow Medicine Show perform at the House of Blues in Dallas. I was there for the opening act, Chuck Mead, who I had interviewed a couple of weeks earlier. After his set, I went upstairs into the HOB bar, which is set in another part of the building away from the action, to watch some NFL Thursday night football. Then a funny thing happened. A simple case of curiosity set in. What exactly did a band that featured four banjo players, two fiddle players, a stand-up bass player but no drums, and an instrument called the 'guitjo' sound like? Goodbye NFL, hello 'deliverance.'
I'll readily admit I was stunned to walk into the venue to find it stuffed to the gills with hundreds of people eagerly anticipating the main event. Looking around, I got the feeling that Old Crow was a band made for grown-ups. There weren't any teens or 20-somethings in this crowd. This educated group knew exactly what they were getting from the headlining act, and couldn't wait for it to happen. Their musical curiosity had long been satiated by this band a long time ago.
Chuck Mead didn't open his show to a packed house, but the audience gathered in front of the stage had no problem making the Grassy Knoll boys feel right at home. The former BR549 founder was on tour in support of his latest release, Back at the Quonset Hut. Many of those great country and rockabilly tunes he rerecorded for his own solo recording made their way on stage this evening to the crowd's delight.
Again, I had no desire to watch something called the Old Crow Medicine Show and disappeared upstairs into the HOB restaurant. As I was sitting at the bar, I overheard some people talking about their high expectations for tonight's show. The more they excitedly talked about the show, which was starting pretty late this evening, the more I reconsidered my options. When they left to head to the show, I thought to myself why not, paid the tab and walked into the unknown.
Like I stated earlier, the main theater at the House of Blues was brimming with excitement as the hundreds of people inside were eagerly anticipating the upcoming hoedown that was about to begin on stage. The sense of excitement rippling through the air finally exploded into cheers when the lights went down and the band walked on stage. Interestingly enough, the musicians formed two lines. Each member knew exactly which spot they'd occupy for the evening's show, and dutifully did their thing in the designated space.
The front line consisted of Chance McCoy, Ketch Secor and Critter Fuqua. The back line was made up of Gill Landry, Morgan Jahnig and Kevin Hayes. Each musician was a gifted multi-instrumentalist, and all were given the opportunity to showcase their remarkable talents at certain points throughout the show. Their vocal harmonies were amazing. The musicianship was breathtaking at times. I've seen a lot of performances in my time, but I've never seen a group of individuals expertly play a variety of instruments with such authority as this group did. That alone was worth the price of admission.
I'm not going to recite all the songs OCMB performed because frankly, I had no clue. And that's not the point here. The lyrics this band sang in fantastic harmony truly took a back seat to the music. This group made you feel were up in the Smokey, or Appalachian Mountains at a down home wingding amongst friends, drinking, dancing and having a good ol' time listen to the boys do their thing. Seriously, I don't know any other way to describe the scene I saw on stage. This band was passionate about the music they played, and delivered it honestly and without reservation to this very appreciative audience.
Make no mistake folks, the Old Crow Medicine Show is the complete package. There are no weak links in the chains that bind this group together. They played their instruments with such joy and passion, the audience was literally feeding off the energy that was emanating from the stage. That's no easy feat to pull off either.
The individual members of this band aren't famous, but don't think for one moment they aren't anonymity has gone unnoticed. Again, and I keep repeating myself here, but the musicianship and harmonies are second to none. The songs are emotionally stirring to the point you want to become an integral part of the controlled chaos on stage. Every time I wanted to leave the show after a tune was completed, the band would kick start the action onstage up a notch with another stirring composition that would lure me back to my seat. Again, I had absolutely no clue what songs they were playing, or words they were singing. I didn't care. In this particular instance, the music was the star of the show.
Recently, the Old Crow Medicine Show released its first studio recording in four years, Carry Me Back. It probably won't win them many new fans, but at the same time, they won't lose any either. What I discovered about this band during the course of the evening was this. There's nothing this band can do to disappoint its fan base. They are just too much fun to be around. The fiddle playing of McCoy and Secor was amazing. The diverse array of stringed instruments played by the band members was astounding as well.
I make no apologies for my hard core rock and roll roots. I love the classic rock I grew up on as well as the up and coming purveyors of metal that are making a strong comeback. Every once in a while a pleasant surprise slaps me upside the head and makes me realize there's a wonderful world of music out there begging to be heard if you only give it a chance. Tonight, I took the 'Nestea plunge' and landed in a frolicking sea of humanity. I'm not ashamed to admit I was hooting and hollering with them. Thank God for curiosity. It didn't kill this particular cat, just opened his eyes.