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The whistle knows my name
Posted: Tue Jul 04, 2017 10:28 pm Reply with quote
Thousandaire Joined: 21 Apr 2008 Posts: 1013
I tend to see Old Crow Medicine Show the way that Ketch sees Bob Dylan: As a signpost for lots of other great music. Certainly just listening to their music reveals a lot of their influences. The band (especially Ketch as the spokesman) has referenced music that is important or influential to them, or that they simply enjoy. I've tried to collect recommendations from interviews and articles through the years.


Do you have a favorite Willie [Nelson] song?
Ketch: "Still Is Still Moving to Me." I would like to see that one turned into a flowchart. I would like to see the fractal version of "Still Is Still Moving to Me."


What are your top five favorite songs about prison?

1. Johnny Cash, "25 Minutes To Go"

Ketch Secor: The way 25 Minutes To Go works is that, slowly, he moves his way from the cell to the electric chair through the course of the tune with all sorts of really dire predicaments. From the preacher who's going to save my soul, and he has his last meal. Let's call that one number five.

The A.V. Club: When did you first hear 25 Minutes To Go?

KS: I heard it when I was a teenager. And, first of all, I really love it because he gets his numbers mixed up. He's got three more minutes to go and then seven more minutes to go. It's sort of bizarre hilarity.
Johnny Cash just seems like the authority on incarceration, but not only that, on death row. It's like Johnny somehow gets ascribed as the master.

2. Vernon Dalhart, "The Prisoner's Song"

KS: Now, that came out in 1928. That is the first country music million-selling album. Vernon Dalhart was actually not a country singer but an operatic star from Texas who changed his style to be more country because he realized he could sell more records to hillbillies than he could to classical types and buffs.

AVC: What's that song about?

KS: It/s real nasally and piercing, and it's a waltz. It's about pity and remorse. It's very floral. It's as proper as you can get in the big house.

AVC: Why do you think it was the first big country record?

KS: The prison song has been the fascination of American popular music for the longest time. We all want to know what it's like in the big house. I want to know what it's like, so I'm writing songs about it and have since I was a kid. I'm writing about being in jail, about the things you do to wind up in jail. It's funny that I would only get to jail recently in my life. But that's another story.

3. Bob Dylan, "The Hurricane"

KS: [Sings.] "While Rubin sits like Buddha in a 10-foot cell / An innocent man in a living hell." I really love this one 'cause you get to be in the cell with Rubin Carter. He's falsely tried, charged with murder one. This is a true-story prison song in which Bob [Dylan] takes a certain number of liberties to tell the story of Rubin Carter, the boxer, and his incarceration. Bob wrote a lot of these - there's "George Jackson," too, another prison song, but I'm going to say that that's got to be maybe my number three. Are we up to number three?

AVC: Yeah, we're at number three.

KS: The thing I love about that prison song is that it's got Scarlet Rivera wailing banshees and doing some shackled fiddle-playing, which just sounds like if you'd put a violin player into solitary confinement for years and years. That's the kind of crying, whining, wailing - a bit brash, even irritating violin playing that I would expect to come from solitary.

4. Merle Haggard, "Sing Me Back Home"

KS: Who better to sing a prison song, a liberation lullaby, than a man who actually spent time in the big house? A Bakersfield boy with Okie roots, born to be a thug. I bet half of his student body in his ninth-grade dropout class was bound for the pen as well. And Merle was not alone on his solemn walk towards confinement. He was part of a generation of hard-luck people in the valley in California at a time when the labor movement made it a little easier. Like the great Bob Dylan line, "Lot of people don't got too much food on their table / But they got a lot of forks and knives / And they gotta cut something."

AVC: Merle Haggard saw Johnny Cash play while he was in jail.

KS: That's right. Merle was sitting there in the big house watching Johnny Cash, probably banging a tin cup on a hard oak table and thinking, "I've got to get the hell out of here. I'm going to go do what that guy's doing. I want to be an actor."
One time Merle Haggard squeezed my neck and whispered something into my ear. And it still gives me goosebumps to hear it, because I can still hear it. I can still feel Merle's breath up against my ear. It's quite a feeling, Merle's breath. We did a tour with him one time, and after sound check, he pulled me aside by the neck in that hard way. You know, you could feel his hands on you, and they're kind but they're strong. He pulled me close and he whispered in my ear, "Sounds good, son."
I always like to be around cons. I like to be around vets. I like to be around stool-pushers and people worth singing country music about. It was really exciting to be around Merle that afternoon, and "Sing Me Back Home" has this beautiful lullaby to it. You can just see his gaze through the bars as he hopes to be free.

5. Lead Belly, "The Midnight Special"

KS: Now, the number one prison song of all time just came to me like a hot freight train rolling through a Louisiana night. It's unquestionably "The Midnight Special" that rolled on down Angola Prison way. Huddie Ledbetter [a.k.a. Lead Belly] would stand up in the workhouse at night and listen to the sound of the train roll by and gaze upon that light and hope to be on board. I can't imagine there's a harder place in American history than Angola State Penitentiary in 1930, when Huddie Ledbetter was locked up for a double-murder. I'm not sure if it's a folk song or if it's a song that he composed, but to me, he is the source. Whether he heard it in prison or whether he wrote it in prison, it doesn't really matter. The thing about prison songs is that it really doesn't matter who wrote them. It's about who listens to them and what they mean and what they can do and if they can loosen your cuffs just a little bit. That's what I'm trying to do.

AVC: Is that something you consciously thought about when you were writing "Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer"?

KS: In that one, I'm just having fun with it. For me, there's a lot of sex appeal. But as my wife pointed out, I spent the whole time describing the trailer and not the girl.

AVC: You didn't write "The Warden," right?

KS: Gill [Landry] wrote that one along with Felix Hatfield, and I love that song. I love to perform it. I was thinking about how it's for the men behind the bars, but it's from the perspective of the men who hold the keys and about the kind of prison that you're in when you're holding the keys, when another man's fate is in your hands. It's a strange circumstance. I'll never forget when I was a kid, going to a slumber party at the warden's house at the Staunton Correctional Facility. They lived inside at the big gate, but outside of another gate. There was a birdcage in the middle. This is an old prison; it's probably been turned into condos with four-dollar coffee bars and yoga places. But anyway, Staunton Correctional Facility - or maybe it was called Augusta County Correctional Facility - had this slumber party going all night long, with search lights going on and occasional sirens, and we were playing baseball in the backyard at the warden's house, which was actually in the pen.
Critter [Fuqua] and I used to go downtown, before they built the new judicial center in Harrisonburg, when we were kids. They had this prison that was right downtown, and you could walk right up through the alley and see the guys playing basketball. And then on weekends, Critter and I would go down and watch the families. They would sit on picnic tables. It was the kind of jail you'd go spend about six months tops before you either went somewhere much worse or came home. Anyhow, I've always been - probably in a voyeuristic sense - fascinated by and sought out those types of facilities. And every time I pass one on the roadside, I think about who's inside them.
Just last weekend up in Kentucky, I was thinking about them. There was a woman who worked as an advocate for death row inmates who was at a concert of ours and told us how much she appreciated the music. Prisoners are easily forgotten, but they're Americans. That's your brother and your sister locked up in there. It's your best friend from high school. It's your neighbor. They're real people. And I like to have a little fun with our songs, but the thing about "The Warden" is that it's pretty hard-hitting and hopefully it'll cause you to think a little harder about who's on the other side and, really, what side of the cell you're on.


Ketch Secor doesn't own a laptop or a smartphone, so most days when he wakes up on tour with his band Old Crow Medicine Show, he'll head to the local library to check his e-mail. "I was just in a library in Gallup, New Mexico, with 25 Navajos," he says. "It's communal, like the Greyhound station of the Internet." After the library, Secor will usually go "junking," digging up rare Dust Bowl-era 78s. At an antiques store in Nova Scotia last year, he found Wilf Carter's "When It's Apple Blossom Time in Annapolis Valley," which happened to be about the same valley where the band was playing an apple festival. Old Crow learned the tune in time for the gig as part of a set of regional songs. "We nailed it," says Secor, 36. "We were singin' Acadian French songs in the Chiac dialect!"
Today, Secor sits in the East Nashville living room of band co-founder Christopher "Critter" Fuqua, who's lounging under a portrait of Jesse James and spitting tobacco juice into a coffee cup. Secor, wearing a blue plaid button-up and calfskin boots that once belonged to his grandfather, flips through a book of old 78s and spins his favorites - including Sam McGee's "Easy Rider," later covered by Ray Charles and the Grateful Dead, and an apocalyptic 1927 sermon by Rev. A.W. Nix. In conversation, Secor will talk about everything from surface mining to Greek mythology; at one point, he names landmarks from my small Maine hometown. "Ketch is a library, but he has this carnival-barker showman thing," says producer Dave Rawlings. "Whatever town you're in, he knows the town next door that everyone looks down on. He'll say, 'I wanna welcome all the hillbillies from whatever that other town is,' and everyone laughs."


�New York state, especially the southern tier, is a hotbed of old-time music,� Secor told me. �I grew up down South, and the only traditional music I heard was volunteer-fire-department bluegrass. �Banks of the Ohio� and the like. I had to come North to hear the old-time sounds of the Southern highlands. The reason has to do with the folk revival, and the efforts of guys like John Cohen, Mike Seeger, the Highwoods String Band, and many more. These were college-educated, Northern youth, southbound and looking for the genuine article. If it weren�t for these New Yorkers, we wouldn�t know the music of Roscoe Holcomb, Tommy Jarrell, Fred Cockerham, and dozens of other deep-holler old-time players that country and bluegrass music long forgot.�
With the success of indie-folk bands like Mumford & Sons, the pop-music scene has changed radically since Old Crow started. Today, residency in certain parts of Brooklyn may require the ability to play the banjo, or at least to own one. But this is not an entirely new thing. �It�s a circular motion, the way traditional music weaves in and out of American popular consciousness,� Secor said. �The Kingston Trio were, in their time, bigger than the Beatles.� In the seventies, acoustic music ascended again, with acts like Stephen Stills, John Denver, and Dolly Parton. �Fiddles and banjos won�t be denied,� Secor said. �I believe they�ll outlast most other American institutions.� And the reach is global. �Go ask a cabbie in Nairobi if they ever heard of country music, and wait for it, wait for it. �You mean like Dolly Parton?� American song will prevail. The good stuff, I mean. Pete Seeger and Woody and Sara Carter did work that�ll long outlast Francis Scott Key.�
Secor is a musical evangelist. He wants people to do more than just listen. �I like libraries so much more than museums,� he said. �I like to take things off the shelves, see? I don�t want my information behind glass or, more likely, behind a screen. I want to experience it, rough it up, beat on it, utilize it, see what I can do with it. Folk music requires this of its participants. Pete [Seeger] always asked the audience to sing along. We are the song, he said.� Secor continued, �I would argue that this continent has the richest musical expression of any place on earth. But music is only as alive as the people who make it. If you�re sitting in front of the computer instead of singing to your kiddos, if you�re stuck in traffic instead of stuck in a festival parking lot with twenty banjos blaring, if you think music is just something to download on your personal device and enjoy on the train home in your ear buds, then you got it all wrong. America has a song on the tip of its tongue that it�s afraid to sing.�
Here is a playlist of American music put together by Secor, with his notes below. �Songs like these can arm you to the teeth,� he said. �But they won�t do a thing if you just press play. You�ve got to be the singer. You�ve got to be the song.�

1. Mississippi John Hurt, �Spike Driver Blues.� The Greeks have Apollo; the Aztecs have Quetzalcoatl. In West Virginia, our heroes swing hammers.

2. Charlie Poole and the North Carolina Ramblers, �Don�t Let Your Deal Go Down.� If it weren�t for whiskey, Charlie Poole would be the king of country music and Jimmie Rodgers would be gandy dancing with Vernon Dalhart, sidetracked somewhere south of Dallas.

3. The Carter Family, �Hello Stranger.� Coronado went mad. De Soto�s grave lay unmarked. But A. P. Carter headed up the holler, stole the riches of American song, and became a radio god.

4. Roscoe Holcomb, �Trouble in Mind.� Roscoe is a ferocious singer, a balladeer, and a miner�not a country star. Probably never listened to the Opry a day in his life, because he never had a radio. Listen to him, and hear what America used to sound like and still did, in some remote places, as late as the nineteen-seventies.

5. Doc and Merle Watson, �St. James Infirmary Blues.� Doc�s love of music was wide and deep. When he was busking on the same corner as we did, fifty years before, he brought an amp with him. He only turned to folk music when rock and roll wouldn�t pay the bills. Hear his love of blues music in this track, his delicate phrasing and powerful delivery.

6. Kitty Wells, �It Wasn�t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.� She�s still the first lady of country music. This song could get you in a lot of trouble back when it first jingled from the jukeboxes of America.

7. Dolly Parton, �Coat of Many Colors.� Rags-to-riches stories today often involve network television, online voting, and a panel of celebrity judges. Dolly did it the hard way.

8. Johnny Cash, �Guess Things Happen That Way.� The late Cowboy Jack Clement wrote this one. Standing out on Belmont Avenue in Nashville while he watched his house burn down a few years ago, he was heard to utter it, in shortened breath, �I don�t like it, but I guess things happen that way.�

9. Woody Guthrie, �Pastures of Plenty.� Two weeks ago, Old Crow Medicine Show visited the Woody Guthrie Museum and Archives, which just opened in Tulsa last year. Go visit it and see Oklahoma�s shame turned shrine to the granddaddy of frontline folk singers.

10. Dock Boggs, �False-Hearted Lover.� When black railroad workers moved through Norton, Virginia, a young Dock Boggs listened close and applied their sound to his picking. Others, like Frank Hutchison and Dick Justice, did it, too. The cross-pollination of black music and white music was happening long before Elvis went to Memphis.

11. Porter Wagoner and the Wagonmasters, �Green, Green Grass of Home.� Old Crow is privileged to be the newest member of America�s most beloved broadcast, the Grand Ole Opry. Porter sang this one from that stage nearly every night. I was honored to hear him a time or two.


Old Crow Medicine Show will be in town with the Avett Brothers at the Peterson Event Center this weekend and in anticipation for the show, Morning Mix host Joey Spehar welcomed Ketch Secor to the show to perform a guest DJ set.
As Ketch was driving toward Pittsburgh from West Virginia and he was crossing the Monongahela River he wanted to hear some Bob Dylan, specifically �Jokerman� from the 1983 album Infidels, which he started his set off with.
Directly following Dylan we transitioned into �Tzena,Tzena,Tzena� a tune by American folk quartet The Weavers. Secor loves the sound of a bullwhip, especially hearing one over the Pittsburgh skyline. He hasn�t been back to Pittsburgh in a while but really enjoys the multitude of ethnic groups and breweries we have to offer.
The third song that Ketch leaves us with on his guest DJ set is something listeners may not have expected to hear from Old Crow Medicine Show fiddle player, Public Enemy�s �911 is a Joke.� A song he first heard at 11 years old on the playground with a jam box. Back on the monkeybars you didn�t want to hear anything but Public Enemy, says Secor, �We listened to public enemy even though we were young, white children in overalls kicking our deflated basketballs up and down the asphalt tarmac.�
A new Old Crow Medicine Show album will be released on July 1st this year and Secor assures Joey and WYEP listeners that this record will resonate with anyone from Pittsburgh, no matter which town or area around the Greater Pittsburgh area you reside. �These songs are guaranteed to cut to the heart of a cool town, and to your dark steel town soul.�

Ketch Secor's Guest DJ Set:
Bob Dylan - Jokerman
The Weavers - Tzena Tzena
Public Enemy - 911 Is A Joke


Old Crow Medicine Show�s 8 Essential Americana Albums of the Last 15 Years
For the last 16 years, Nashville-based roots band Old Crow Medicine Show have slowly risen the Americana ranks after being discovered busking in Boone, N.C. by bluegrass legend Doc Watson. They�ve recorded eight studio albums, the latest being �Remedy,� a 13-song LP that continues blending country, folk and bluegrass for another stand-out Americana album.
Listening to any of the band�s albums, you can instantly recognize that they�re well-versed in traditional songwriting � and like a lot of Americana, their work transcends boundaries. A song from their 2004 self-titled debut, �Wagon Wheel,� became a hit for country star Darius Rucker last year and nabbed the band their first platinum-selling single. That song was first started by Bob Dylan as a �musical sketch� in 1973 and later turned over and finished by Secor. The band did a similar thing with another unfinished Dylan tune on �Remedy,� with their single �Sweet Amarillo.�
For Old Crow Medicine Show�s vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Ketch Secor, that word stirs up a lot of emotions. �You�re not getting turned on to Americana music by mass media,� he said in an interview. �The way this music finds its way into your life is because your best friend tells you about it. It has a more of a personal connection. As connected as we are supposedly are, there�s a real disconnect. This music has a real connecting force to it. That�s why it gets into you. With my own records, when I talk to people about what they like about it, they often share the story of when they first heard it. That can be a defining moment.�
Here Secor walks us through eight albums he sees as defining moments in the last 15 years of Americana music � check out his picks below and stream them via Spotify.

1. Caroline Chocolate Drops, �Genuine Negro Jig� (2010)
�It�s got a lot of nods to some of the important figures in Black country music like Etta Baker and Joe Thompson,� Secor explains. �They�re playing old-time music and that�s what they do really well. It easy to think of it as over-simplified � like you�re singing about, literally, cornbread and butterbeans � but there�s also something pretty powerful behind four or five African-American 20 and 30 year olds singing about cornbread and butterbeans in the 21st century.�

2. Highwoods String Band, �Fire on the Mountain� (2009 Reissue)
�The most important of the revivalists� genre,� he says. �If there is indeed a string-band movement as a part of Americana, this record�s gotta be heard. They are the band that really studied [Old-time string band] the Skillet Lickers and made a presence in the folk revival.�

3. Iris DeMent, �Sing the Delta� (2012)
�I think [she] is one of the most important voices in the Americana scene,� he says. �She�s the real thing, the genuine article. There�s a lot of young women � dudes, too � who can learn a lot from Iris Dement songs. She comes from the real place�it�s a heartland kind of sound. There�s echoes of Pentecostal and intense religious fervor filled in her music. That�s where much of the power comes from.�

4. Jason Isbell, �Here We Rest� (2011)
�It�s important to have his voice, his perspective, his Alabama-ness. Alabama often speaks for itself and often not from its own mouth � Jason has become a really important part of the scene. He�s been really hustling this past decade.�

5. Be Good Tanyas, �Blue Horse� (2001)
�Damn, this record made me really think �Oh, there�s an Americana music scene and I want to be a part of it.� There definitely needs to be a Canadian group, because for me, [they�re] just one of many, many Canadian artists adding to the canon.�

6. R.L. Burnside, �Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down� (2000)
�Sometimes when records defy categorizing, they�ll be called �Americana.� It�s this preverbal lint trap for this musical spin cycle. [This album] is a blues singer with drum loops. I don�t think it�s a blues record or a hip-hop record, maybe it�s all of those things? I think that�s part of what makes the richness of the Americana scene, is that we get to claim things that don�t necessarily have banjos in them.�

7. Levon Helm, �Dirt Farmer� (2007)
�Is [Levon] not rock and roll? Well, we call it �Americana� now because rock and roll means you�re supposed to have a jumbotron behind you. But Levon never did. And [�Dirt Farmer�] sounds like Arkansas to me. That record is great.�
�We read [Woody Guthrie�s autobiography] �Bound for Glory� and we tried to make music that would open doors in the same spirited way,� Secor says. �We were doing it 80 years later, but we found that it still worked.�

8. Gillian Welch, �Time (The Revelator)� (2001)
�It�s an epic album in any genre,� he states. �Some of the most masterful songwriting that I think has been done in this millennium and I think it�ll stand the test of time in 100 years. Maybe 500.�

Last edited by The whistle knows my name on Tue Apr 24, 2018 11:38 pm; edited 1 time in total

"That's the whole principle of the Medicine Show ... you put your trust in the medicine, and you don't get beat up."
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The whistle knows my name
Posted: Tue Apr 24, 2018 11:29 pm Reply with quote
Thousandaire Joined: 21 Apr 2008 Posts: 1013

My Record Collection by Old Crow Medicine Show's Ketch Secor

In My Record Collection, we dig down to the bottom of musicians' souls to find out what the most treasured parts of their record collection are. This week, it's the turn of freewheeling folk collective Old Crow Medicine Show's Ketch Secor, whose duties in the band include fiddle, harmonica, banjo, guitar, bajo sexto and mandolin, let's see what he picks out...

The first record I ever bought with my own money was…

"Bad Brains' Quickness. I was 12 and they were supposed to be the hardest rock band in the world. The record store guy said if I didn’t like the cassette I could return it. I did not like it. And I did return it and the record store guy said, 'But I can’t resell it now that it’s open', 'But you said I could return it,' I complained. 'Fine, I guess I did say that,' he said. That’s how I got a free copy of Tracy Chapman's Crossroads which I loved, could sing you every song on that tape I loved it so much."

The record that made me want to be in a band was…

"Live From Newport Broadside, 1962 on Vanguard. That record had a dozen reasons why I should get into the music business. Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Tom Paxton, Jim Garland, but most of all it was the Freedom Singers and their song 'Black Dog, White Dog', that sealed my fate."

The record I've played more than any other is…

"Bob Dylan's Infidels. I got it for Christmas in 1989. Went to see Bob that spring. Sat through a 70-minute show and only understood 4 words. But they were powerful words. They were “hey” and “mister” and “tambourine” and “man” and that was all I needed to hear."

The record that always makes me feel good is…

"Pata Pata by Miriam Makeba. The joyous music that South Africans created in the middle of Apartheid is enough to turn anyone away from the cliff’s edge. Music is survival."

The record I turn to when I'm feeling down is…

"Pete Seeger's Abiyoyo. Children’s music for the child in all of us. I’d like to duct tape the president to a chair and make him listen to this record 30 times every day for the next 2 ¾ years."

The record I think is the most underrated of all time is…

“I'd say Viva Terlingua from Jerry Jeff Walker. C’mon you know you love Jerry Jeff. Why won’t you acknowledge him alongside the other pioneers of country music’s Outlaw movement?"

The record with my favourite cover art is…

"The Indestructible Beat of Soweto. It’s that visor he‘s wearing. I used to have one just like it."

The record with my favourite title is…

"This is The Dead Milkmen's Beezelbubba. I think Metaphysical Graffiti was a far superior album, but Beezelbubba’s got it as far as nom de guerres go."

The record I can't understand why everybody loves is…

"For me, this is The Rolling Stones' Exile On Main Street. I’m saying this quietly so my hipster neighbours don’t hear, but loud enough for all the Little Walter and Hound Dog fans. Blues singers don’t have stylists."

The last record I bought was…

"Furaha Wenye Gita by George Mukabi. Kakamega County, Kenya never knew a better songwriter. Here’s one of his lyrics: "It isn’t a piece of cloth! A child isn’t like a piece of cloth that you’d borrow from just anyone...”

The record I'm most looking forward to hearing in 2018 is…

"I am most looking forward to hearing our new album Volunteer played on 650AM WSM. I love that AM radio crackle."

The greatest record of all time is…

George Washington Johnson's The Whistling Coon. Have a listen to it sometime. Wax cylinders held up better than shellac so it sounds better than records made 40 years later. Born in Virginia in the last years of slavery time, George moved to the Bowery and whistled for tips on the streets of New York. This is the first record, really."
"The first moment suspended in time from which all American popular music forms stem, rock and roll, hip hop, country, jazz. It’s all in Whistling Coon. It was the biggest record of its time. George Washington Johnson died broke but free. They’ll never put him on the walk of fame, but I’m telling you: the first African-American recording artist belongs in the most hallowed halls."

"That's the whole principle of the Medicine Show ... you put your trust in the medicine, and you don't get beat up."
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