There's something really valuable and really ballsy about a band that's never compromised, changed or tried to assimilate into what's happening in pop music today. Despite the fact that every genre seems to be moving towards electro-something, Old Crow Medicine Show (OCMS) has never delved to far from their old-timey music roots.
Though, according to their lead singer and fiddler Ketch Secor, they most certainly do incorporate other types of music into their sound, it just happens to be a far cry from the heavily engineered sounds that are so ubiquitous in popular music today.
"We do incorporate a lot of different elements into our music. It's just all kinds of traditional music. It's more of a folk rock sensibility," says Secor. "The musical heroes we've chosen are all dead now."
The music being made by this string sextet might sound as though it exists on the other side of some nameless void that's stretching between today's popular country music and that of eras past, but the men of OCMS do not live in a musical vacuum.
Having just released Carry Me Back, their most successful album to date, the fact that there's been a recent change in musical culture that's allowed them to move closer to the forefront of music hasn't been lost on Secor.
Friends of the English quartet known as Mumford & Sons, Secor seems highly aware of exactly what's happening in folk music today.
"They're great. We really have a musical kinship," says Secor, citing that though the two bands have plenty in common, Mumford & Sons have still broached a level of pop music that OCMS hasn't – and doesn't want to.
"I really feel like we're the keeper of the crypt," he says in terms of their ability to curate a sound that's been all but lost on in the American music consciousness, especially in view of what's considered country music today.
"To me, the violin is the apex of country music. You can't get any more country than that. A lot of people think country music is about your huge digitized and enhanced face being on a billboard. For me, country music about the size of a banjo and a fiddle and your heart," he says.
For Secor, country music also has a great deal to do with performing it, which is just one reason they seem to be touring non-stop all the time. Though they took a short break between their summer and fall tours, it seems Secor is more comfortable now that the band's on the road again.
"It's nice to be home and spend time with family, but then the fall comes and you get to thinking about all the places you want to go," says Secor.
Detroit is a place of particular interested to Secor, who mentioned that he particularly likes hat shopping in the city. And while he romanticized at length during our conversation about his sheer love for their city – even calling it the Rome of America at one point – he also cites another reason OCMS always includes a stop in the city while they're on the road.
"We always like playing in Canada, but our arrest records are too long to get in," he says – and we're not entirely sure if he was joking.
There is no joking when it comes to talking about the band's live set, however. It's something that Secor seems to take with both a light heart and a serious mind.
"I like performing. I was a born performer. I perform walking into the post office. It just can't be stopped," he says.
Commanding an audience is a bit different than busking on your way to deliver a letter, however. In fact, it's quite a powerful and sometimes heavy experience according to Secor.
"I imagine that's what a preacher feels like. Like being the conduit to God," he says "It's like you're a vehicle. It's like you're them sum of all this intention." | RDW
Old Crow Medicine Show • 10/25, 7 p.m. • Royal Oak Music Theatre • 318 W. Fourth Street, Royal Oak • royaloakmusictheatre.com • 248.399.2980 • $35/$55