Ketch Secor, the frontman of Old Crow Medicine Show, is making us hungry.

“The thing about music in America is it’s a gumbo, and it takes a long time to cook that roux down,” he says during a phone interview. “It’s easy to point out the shrimp and the oysters, but we’re just talking about the roux, we’re just talking about the thickening. This music is so thick, and I’m just proud to be a thickening agent.”

The Nashville-based string band is on the road, celebrating its 25th anniversary and last year’s release of its eighth album, the Grammy-nominated “Jubilee.” The tour includes a show at the FM Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre on Thursday, April 11.

Old Crow’s silver jubilee is a marketing point for the dates, but Secor said it has not moved the band to create a career-retrospective setlist.

“I don’t feel like the audience is necessarily there because of Old Crow’s birthday. If anything, they’re probably there for their own birthday or an office event after work, or because it’s their anniversary. We generally tailor all of these experiences to put together a night that an audience will really enjoy and remember, and you know, joy and unity are sort of the ingredients that we would like to cook with the most.”

There is one nostalgic aspect of the Northeast part of the tour, which also includes stops near Philadelphia and in the Lehigh Valley and Kingston, New York: founding member Willie Watson, who left the group in 2011, will perform as the opening act.

“Willie’s had about 10 years now out on the road doing his own thing,” says Secor. “We recorded a song together on this latest project and we’ve been doing a ton of work with him overseas and here in the states, so we’re just so psyched to get back together with an architect of Old Crow in this anniversary year.”

Secor says that during the pandemic he started reaching out to Watson “more regularly and sort of rekindled [the relationship] through that period of time.”

“We did a show together during COVID and then we wrote a couple songs, and it’s just these relationships in a 25-year-old band can be complicated and yet people grow and change and find new ways to blend their voices together.”

Secor (fiddle, harmonica, guitar, banjo and vocals) is joined in the group by Morgan Jahnig (upright bass), Cory Younts (mandolin, keyboards, banjo, harmonica and vocals), Mike Harris (slide guitar, guitar, mandolin, banjo, dobro, guitjo and vocals), Mason Via (guitar, guitjo, mandolin and vocals), Dante Pope (drums, percussion and vocals) and PJ George (banjo, accordion, mandolin, fiddle, guitar, guitjo and vocals). (A guitjo is a 6-string banjo that is tuned like a guitar.)

Last month, they played at Willie Nelson’s annual Luck Reunion in Texas. In July, the band will perform in New York City at The Rooftop at Pier 17.

Old Crow is an outgrowth of street corner busking performances in Secor’s home state of Virginia that started in 1998. Its breakthrough song was “Wagon Wheel,” a tune credited to Secor and Bob Dylan. As a teenager, Secor took the bones of an unreleased Dylan song from a bootleg recording, adding verses to what was essentially a series of choruses composed by the legendary songwriter and singer. Old Crow put the song on its 2004 self-titled debut album.

“Wagon Wheel” went platinum for the band, and the version recorded by Darius Rucker, the Hootie and the Blowfish singer, went triple platinum and won a Grammy in 2014.

Asked to compare Old Crow’s career pre- and post-“Wagon Wheel,” Secor says:  “The song came out when I was 26 or something, so that’s 20 years ago. I wrote it when I was 17, so that’s almost 30 years ago, so in terms of there being a before, the before is like playing coffee houses and street corners, so I definitely have seen a lot of change in the past 30 years in terms of the audience. But you know, as soon as I finished the Dylan song when I was a senior in high school I had a really strong feeling that it was gonna be a good song, that people were really gonna like it. It gave me a great sense of confidence.”

Sharing a writing credit with Dylan is one of Old Crow’s many brushes with music immortality. Doc Watson, John Prine, Gillian Welch and Marty Stuart were fans and supporters, and Mavis Staples is among the guest artists on “Jubilee.”

“That was probably the most exciting point in the project was when she agreed to be involved. I just love her music. … As it relates to Mavis, it just means that 25 years in, the band is in orbit of the very people who made us want to be in a band. When we lost at the Grammys this past winter, it was to Joni Mitchell, who was one of the chief influences I had as a kid. Nowadays we get to be around these people.

“So yeah, it’s pretty cool man. When I was a kid I figured that heaven was a place where you rub elbows with Ty Cobb and eat pickles all day, and it turns out that I didn’t have to wait to die.”

Photo by Joshua Black Wilkins



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