Old Crow strives for old-time authenticity in its tunes


Old Crow Medicine Show with Shovels & Rope. 8 p.m. Friday. $43.40-$50.60. Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park, 2200 Encore Parkway, Alpharetta. www.ticketmaster.com.

Ketch Secor is a man who, even over the phone, gives you the impression that he was born in the wrong era. It’s not just the old-time country folk he plays as part of Old Crow Medicine Show, the folk-country outfit he founded with childhood friend Critter Fuqua about 15 years ago, though that’s part of it.

There’s also the fact that he doesn’t own a smartphone or a laptop — “I prefer typing or handwriting letters,” he explains — and the fact that he reminisces fondly about growing up with a VCR as the hot new technology.

“We could tape reruns of ‘The Brady Bunch’ and fast-forward the commercials — it was wonderful,” he says.

Then there’s the matter of what he wishes he could expect from today’s country music. This, of course, is a man who had his “teeth shake” when he first listened to Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and cites Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison as inspiration. So it’s no surprise that he wants to hold what he calls “the voice of the people” to a higher standard, waiting for his contemporaries to take on, for example, the situation in Ferguson, Mo., or the war in Iraq.

“The war’s more complicated than the eagle flying,” Secor says. “There’s real sorrow, and songs need to point that out. Like what’s going on in Ferguson, that’s the real deal. It’s out there right now. If country music is the voice of the people like it pretends to be, we’d be singin’ about Ferguson, Missouri, and that would be on the radio – but it ain’t.”

Secor discussed Old Crow Medicine Show’s induction into the Grand Ole Opry and his take on commercial success in advance of the group’s show this Friday at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Alpharetta.

Q: You guys were inducted into the Grand Ole Opry last year. What was that like?

A: It's the kind of completion of all the work that we did. When we first came to Nashville, I wasn't thinking about getting onto the Opry. Looking back on it now, I can see that the livelihood of the band was geared toward the Opry all along. What brought us to Nashville? Well the Grand Ole Opry said we could play on the curb there in front of the Opry House. It made sense, looking back on it — we weren't trying to get on the Jumbotron, we weren't trying to get on CMT, we were trying to get on the Grand Ole Opry.

Q: How is your new album, “Remedy,” different from your previous releases?

A: It's the most exciting collection of songs I think we've ever put together. After about 15 years, you figure out how to be a consistent songwriter and how to become a hardcore fiddle player. So it's like all the stars lined up for this album. It took a lot of work, and all of the work was fun and rewarding and hard and all the good things that make a record what it's supposed to be.

Q: When Old Crow first started out, you all moved to a cabin without running water because you said you can’t sing about things unless you’ve lived them. Do you think there’s an inauthenticity around people who sing about things they haven’t experienced?

A: Yeah, I really do.

(With songwriting), it goes back to that spiritual connection — you really have to be in the place of the songs that you’re singing. Now, it doesn’t have to be your pain — you can be a pretty loose and easy and free kind of dude rambling through this world. But if you haven’t walked alongside somebody who’s in that situation, it’s hard to talk about it with any authority.

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