OLD CROW MEDICINE SHOW at Echo Beach, Thursday, July 31. Rating: NNNN
Old Crow Medicine Show have come a long way from busking outside the Grand Ole Opry, where I encountered them for the first time in the early 00s. Last year, for example, they were inducted into the revered Nashville country music institution.
But no amount of late-night talk show appearances or Bob Dylan co-writes can smooth down the seven-piece string band's raw approach to and bona fide appreciation for old-time bluegrass. At Echo Beach, they jigged, hooted and harmonized in the highest of spirits during songs from their five albums and hillbilly blues-folk traditionals, horsehair flying from fiddle bows and banjos and resonator guitars plucking jauntily.
Their Virginian accents are over the top yet genuine, and Ketch Secor more than did his homework when it came to Ontario geography and shout-outs (even Bill Blair got a mention!). Each member is a jaw-dropping multi-instrumentalist and total ham, particularly cowboy-hatted Cory Younts, who left the drums to dance a jig before scooping up a mandolin for a solo. (Later he also proved himself to be a fine whistler, organist, fiddler and harmonicist.) Behind him, the others crowded together in the middle of the large stage, smiling him on.
We got to see their softer side, too, like during the sublime Wagon Wheel, a Dylan/Old Crow co-write popularized by Darius Rucker last year. For the encore, they teamed up with New Brunswick musician Matt Andersen, who opened the show, for a couple of soulful, bluesy covers, including Neil Young's Rockin' In The Free World.