Editor’s Note: In April, 2011, three bands climbed aboard a pair of old train cars in Oakland, CA, and traveled the rails across the American Southwest to New Orleans, LA, stopping in six cities just long enough to unload, play, and pack up for the next leg of the trip. “The Railroad Revival Tour” took Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Mumford & Sons, and Old Crow Medicine Show on a diesel-driven rock-fest, with more than a touch of Southern charm and hometown Americana.
RedFence could not pass up a creative adventure like that. Photographer J. Regan Hutson dashed off to capture the show at their nearest stop — in San Pedro, CA. And now RF Senior Writer James Roland’s offers this three-part introduction to the intrepid rail-reviving bands.
Steel-Riding Melody, Part Three
Old Crow Medicine Show
“Headed down south to the land of the pines, and I’m thumbin’ my way into North Caroline, starin’ up the road, and pray to God I see headlights.”
A throwback fusion of bluegrass and folk-rock, Old Crow Medicine Show is a lot more than banjo twang and an awesome band name.
The founding members’ names, for example, are also awesome. Ketch Secor and Critter Fuqua met in the seventh grade and played in various bands over the years before they met the rest of their bandmates at Ithica College, became Old Crow Medicine Show, recorded a demo cassette in Critter’s bedroom in 1998, and played street-corner-to-sidewalk all the way across Canada and northeast America.
They finally landed in the Appalachian Mountains and were officially “discovered” while busking outside a pharmacy in Boone, North Carolina. They made the rounds at a few festivals, and by 2001, they had played the Grand Ole Opry to a standing ovation.
Over the years, band members came and went, including the founders, but by the time of their 2011 railroad tour, Secor was on stage once again. Through years of touring outside the mainstream music industry, the band picked up the the life experience that gives their music its soul and sincerity.
Less interested in breaking musical ground than in crafting immaculate new tunes (and American standards) in an established style, Old Crow Medicine Show continues to make albums that one could imagine spinning on a record player in 1950’s Tennessee. Yet, any modern listener with a hint of mountain nostalgia in their blood will find Old Crow’s toe-tapping enthusiasm more than contagious.
Part One – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
Part Two – Mumford & Sons
The Railroad Revival Tour is the subject of a documentary film, set to premier this month. And the tour itself has scheduled a return this year with an all new lineup. Make sure to check their website for updates.