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Jay 'Ketch' Secor: Crowing on the Old Medicine Show tradition (Dec 03, 2012)

Just before the turn of this century, musician Jay ‘Ketch’ Secor joined some like-minded music-makers in what they called their “Trans: mission” tour – an attempt to busk across Canada and the northern United States. The group made a recording and quite literally hit the road to make their brand of what Secor calls “hillbilly string band” music.

Since those humble beginnings, Secor and the band known as Old Crow Medicine Show have gone on to tour well beyond North America, and are widely credited for helping to revive the early American string band sound. The group is even credited for paving the way for folk rock acts like the Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons.

2012 has been a transformative year for Old Crow Medicine Show as the group has weathered changes in lineup and even the release of a new album titled Carry Me Back. Here Secor shares some his thoughts on the group’s journey with KGOU’s ‘Hardluck’ Jim Johnson of The Weekend Blues.


Interview Highlights


On the ‘revival’ of the tradition

Secor: “This kind of music, folk music and American roots music, has a pendulum force, and we are in an exciting upswing of the music. I’ve seen it grow incredibly over the past decade. It’s a time in which so many of the people who really started the commercial version of this old-timey music, the people who really had success with it and sold records, Kitty Wells, Earl Scruggs, and Doc (Watson) all passed away in 2012. It’s exciting to be here, but there’s an echo in the room and a lot of loud thunder keeps rollin’. And when you think about how many people have contributed to the body of American song, well, we just happen to be painting the porch, now.


On traveling

Secor: “We love to travel to the towns where the music comes from… but, music comes from all of the places we travel. One of the things we learned early on from listening and watching Garrison Keiller perform was this trick of how to make your band be the hometown band in any town. We’ve always been really interested in drawing a connection between the music we make and the place that we’re making it.”

 

On the recent changes within the band

Secor: “We’ve kinda had a little bit of a reinvention… It’s been an exciting time, and a trying time as we’ve weathered a tough breakup. We lost a really great and talented voice who I know is going to continue to be a big part of our music scene… that’s Willie Watson. And then, really excitingly… the return of my dearest friend… ‘Critter’ Fuquay. We also have a new member to the band and that’s Chance McCoy… Together we’re out here with a new incarnation of the band and it feels good!”

 

On busking

Secor: “I remember being a kid…” said Ketch, “…and dancing out in front of a corner store and somebody threw me money… and I heard the jingle. It certainly was a powerful sound. And I really love to see change and dollar bills, folding money, get tossed into a hat. There’s nothing quite like it!”

“It’s our schooling,” said Ketch. “We came of age playing music on the street corner. In the fall of 1998 we set out to cross Canada and much of the North West of America by playing street corners. And, I think this probably had more to do with a dog-eared copy of Woody’s (Woody Guthrie’s) Bound For Glory than anything else.”

 

On the string band tradition

“I feel like there’s a role for string band music. (It’s) kinda like an elegy for all the things that are so wild and wonderful about America that are so quickly covered up and bypassed”.

“You gotta put a new face on it. It’s not a relic and it’s not a museum piece. I mean it looks good behind glass, but frankly, I always want to bust that glass open and take those priceless artifacts out and do something with ‘em. You know, music lives and it’s a joyful sound and we’re proud to make it. It fills our hearts. It’s a gift to receive as well as to make!”



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