The repertoire of the bluegrass revivalists in the Old Crow Medicine Show contains plenty of traditional numbers which have been played for generations, but according to multi-instrumentalist and singer Ketch Secor, the band's material taps into something which lies in every one of us.
"All of these songs, they're like keys to open the many doors down a long corridor of America that might have been sheet-rocked over a long time ago; you don't even know that this is part of your house,'' Secor said.
The band will be performing at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park Wednesday, July 21, and Secor - a Denville native whose duties in the band include fiddle, harmonica, guitar and banjo - explained modern audiences' enthusiasm for traditionals, saying that "we've all been schooled by American folk music.''
"You know, anybody who was in a fourth grade class knows 'Oh! Susanna,'" he said. "And the thing about 'Oh! Susanna' is that it's not just a historical piece, it's actually a really great song, it's a masterpiece. They don't make songs nowadays that have any of the resonance of even 'Oh! Susanna' or 'Get Along Home, Cindy.' Now, there are some great songs being written these days too and that's true, but these are songs that you heard when you were a kid and that's when you develop your whole aesthetic of music, that's when your ears become trained to what great music is.
"And because kids grow up with Pete Seeger still, with Woody Guthrie still even though Pete Seeger's 91 and Woody's been dead since (1967), we're still all children of the American folk music sound, so it's in us all. And when Old Crow plays this way, we bring it out in you and that's one of the real powerful forces that we are able to dabble in a little bit, kind of our black magic is that the Old Crow can take you back to a place that you may have never even been before but somehow you know about it, somehow you're connected to an older and more awesome America than the one we're in today.''
Last year the quintet released its first live DVD, "Live at the Orange Peel and Tennessee Theatre,'' and Secor explained why now was the right time for the band to put out a concert film.
"It seems like you put out these records now and then you make a video for them, but you're video doesn't get played on anything because you're not that kind of band (and) those TV shows are reserved for the real watery country stuff or Lady Gaga, so where do you take your fiddles and your banjo in high-definition film format?'' Secor said. "You make a video and it just gets played on the internet, so why not make something that you can put on your merch table and spend a little bit more money than you would if you were to make a single music video, but not a whole lot more, and then you've got something for posterity?''
The DVD captures the band tearing through their arrangements of traditionals such as "Reuben's Train'' and "Tell it to Me'' as well as originals including "I Hear Them All'' and "Wagon Wheel,'' showing that while this music is old-timey, there's nothing stodgy about it.
Explaining the rock 'n' roll heart to the band's down-home live show, Secor said, "It's such a different time now, but if I was a rock 'n' roller, or even a fiddle player, in the 1970s, you're damn straight I would have gotten a giant harmonica, I would have gotten my roadies to dress up like monks, I mean I would have gone all out. ... You just sort of have to imagine those things are there, you have to imagine it's 'Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars,' because all you might see are five sweaty dudes and some acoustic instruments, but you should know that we are seeing a whole lot more.''
An evening with Old Crow Medicine Show: Doors at 7 p.m., showtime at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 21 at The Stone Pony, 913 Ocean Ave., Asbury Park. Tickets are $25. For more information, call (732) 502-0600 or visit the Stone Pony's website.