Tag Archives: alt-country
Last week I had a great surprise. No, I didn’t win Lotto or wake up with the sudden ability to tap-dance. Fingers crossed those surprises are still to come. But I was asked to guest program an alt-country special for triple j’s Roots N All program. Going to air every Thursday night from 10pm, Roots N All is a three-hour specialist program that is broadcast nationally. It was a huge honour to be asked to host the show and putting it all together was a blast, so big love to the wonderful folk at triple j who made it happen and also to all the listeners who tuned in on the night.
If you missed the show, you can stream it here up until this Thursday July 28.
Additionally, you can also check out the playlist on triple j’s website.
Some highlights from the show included brand new music from Wilco, Dawes, Vetiver, Those Darlins and Tiny Ruins. I also played some old favourites like Ryan Adams and Silver Jews, country covers legends The Pigs reworking Beyonce and two songs with ‘Motherfucker’ in the title. Good times.
Marrickville’s dim lit industrial fringe is even more dim this evening. It’s just gone past eighty-thirty and Earth Hour has plunged Sydney into darkness. With few streetlights on and the few homes scattered in the concrete clad factory streets lit by candles, the sky is a cloudy grey against an unseasonably warm March evening. The darkness, the grey slab buildings, the abandoned quiet, it’s not exactly the right atmosphere for an old-timey, bluegrass ho-down. But that’s okay. If I close my eyes I’m somewhere in the American south, in a button down blouse, outside a rundown bar and about to see Old Crow Medicine Show.
For the uninitiated, how best to describe OCMS? They make the kind of music you imagine old-school banjo slinging dudes from a different time and place playing at barn dances and porch sing-a-longs. It’s a raw, authentic, down home sound. Fiddle, blues harp, flat-picked guitar, banjo, mandolin and harmonies so sweet and sad and uplifting it is easy to forget you’re in an industrial wasteland in Sydney’s inner-west.
More than ten years since the band were discovered busking on the streets of North Carolina, the group are back in Australia for the second time in just under year, having finally started to build a dedicated fan base Down Under. And dedicated they are. The audience is diverse, young and old, fresh faced and haggard, all keen to catch some Old Crow magic. Check-shirted alt-country city boys blend with genuine country folk who’ve travelled up from regional Victoria just to see the show. There are girls in cowboy boots, men in dungarees and women old enough to be my mother screaming like teenagers as band leader Ketch Secor swaggers onto the stage and greets us in his butter-wouldn’t-melt southern drawl.
For just over two hours (with an interval midway from which they all return looking suitably wired) the Old Crow boys take us to the heart of the American south and we hoot and holler accordingly. The band have been to charm school and work their way through an eclectic set list of party tunes and heartbreakers with ease. ‘Down Home Girl’, ‘I Hear Them All’ and ‘Caroline’ stir the crowd into polite sing-a-longs before ‘Cocaine’ and ‘Wagon Wheel’ sway us into a rousing chorus ready for more. When the show comes to its inevitable close, the crowd stumbles out into the Marrickville night and heads where all nights of this kind inevitably end, Newtown’s Town Hall Hotel. Every single one of us wishes we were drinking whiskey out back of the Factory with the band. But in the absence of the band, we fondle our beers and reminisce and already start to talk about when we’ll get to see them again.
After months on the road as part of the alt-country wet dream that is Dave Rawlings Machine, the boys from Old Crow Medicine Show are giving up what could be the world’s sweetest old-time/bluegrass tour bus for a stint on the road on their lonesome in Australia.
It’s sad news for Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch, who will no doubt miss the fine contribution the Old Crow gang have made to the band over the past twelve months. But it’s great news for Australian fans of OCMS. What’s that you say? A second tour here in just under a year?
I spoke to the band’s frontman Ketch Secor this week about his newfound role in the ‘machine’, old school vs new school country and that ol’ man who so many call their biggest influence, Bobby Dylan.
The Old Crow Medicine collaboration with Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch for Dave Rawlings Machine is one of the finest things to happen to Americana for quite some time and it’s a damn shame we won’t be seeing them live here soon as well. In the meantime though, there are quite a few good videos of the band playing songs from the Machine debut A Friend of A Friend online inlcuding this version of the Ryan Adams/ Dave Rawlings co-write ‘To Be Young Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High’.
Australian tour dates for OCMS can be found here.