VI­SIONS OF AMER­I­CANA

Old Crow Medicine Show is bring­ing its rein­ven­tion of a Dy­lan master­piece to Aus­tralia. By Iain Shed­den

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music -

Noth­ing is sa­cred in Amer­i­can mu­sic, ac­cord­ing to Old Crow Medicine Show’s singer and fid­dle player Ketch Secor. That would have to be the start­ing view­point, one would think, for any­one con­sid­er­ing do­ing their own ver­sion of one of the most revered al­bums in his­tory, Bob Dy­lan’s Blonde on Blonde.

“You just have to clean it, make it yours, feel it,” Secor says.

The mu­si­cian and his col­leagues in the ac­claimed Nashville Amer­i­cana band did ex­actly that last year, tak­ing Dy­lan’s clas­sic 1966 dou­ble al­bum and rein­vent­ing it in their own im­age in front of a sell­out crowd at Nashville’s CMA The­atre, part of the city’s Coun­try Mu­sic Hall of Fame and Mu­seum. The record­ing of that show be­came an al­bum, 50 Years of Blonde on Blonde, in April this year, prompt­ing a world tour, the tail-end of which sees Old Crow Medicine Show re­turn­ing to Aus­tralia later this month to per­form its in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Dy­lan’s opus.

It’s a project very close to Secor’s heart. He has been a Dy­lan tragic for most of his life, so he knows the No­bel prize-win­ner’s mu­sic in­side out. “I can’t imag­ine my life with­out him when I was aged 12 or even 10,” says Secor, who teamed up with Old Crow’s guitarist Crit­ter Fuqua when they were in sev­enth grade in the town of Har­rison­burg in Vir­ginia.

“I ab­sorbed that ma­te­rial all through my teen years,” he says. “A lot of teenagers didn’t, but they’ve got ’im now.”

By that Secor means that through Old Crow’s ver­sion of Blonde on Blonde, which re­mod­els songs such as Just Like a Woman, Pledg­ing My Time and Leop­ard-Skin Pill-Box Hat in a rootsy, acous­tic set­ting, the band has been able in­tro­duce a younger de­mo­graphic to Dy­lan’s mu­sic. “We’ve turned on a lot of young­sters to Bob Dy­lan,” he says.

“There are a lot of them who are Old Crow fans who have never re­ally lis­tened to him. They missed the boat on it. That’s so odd for me, be­cause I grew up with him.”

The world is awash with Dy­lan purists, in­clud­ing in Aus­tralia, but so far Old Crow has not en­coun­tered any back­lash against its bold take on his work. “I’m of­ten aware of au­di­ence mem­bers that are those old Dy­lan fans who take notes through a Dy­lan show,” says Secor.

“We are such a newer gen­er­a­tion that I think that they are just tick­led by it. They can see all the Dy­lan brush­strokes that we put into mak­ing our ver­sion of the al­bum. They see that our ver­sion of Just Like a Woman comes from The Concert for Bangladesh [as part of Dy­lan’s con­tri­bu­tion to the two con­certs hosted by Ge­orge Har­ri­son and Ravi Shankar at New York’s Madi­son Square Gar­den in 1971].

“You can tell, if you’re a hard­core Dy­lan fan, that it’s Bangladesh. There’s Ge­orge Har­ri­son’s gui­tar part on there.

“Be­cause I’m such a hard­core Bob Dy­lan fan, if you are a hard­core Bob Dy­lan fan you can see that we knew what we were do­ing.”

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