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Foot Stomping Ryman New Year's Eve with Old Crow Medicine Show

Always good to start the year with a 2,300-person sing-along. (And I’m not talking about “Auld Lang Syne,” a song I never really understood.) We rang in 2024 at the Ryman Auditorium with the Old Crow Medicine Show, crooning “Wagon Wheel” like we were sitting around a campfire with friends.

It was our first Old Crow show, and won’t be our last.

If you don’t know this band, think old timey string band with amps and occasional horns, lead by a banjo picking, fiddle scratching, harmonica slinging carnival barker – Ketch Secor.

There were lots of special guests, including bluegrass guitar shredder Molly Tuttle, who the internet tells me may be romantically linked with Secor. And, in a twist that got the show off to a ripping start, they all took the stage for the first number, “Cocaine Habit.” Like many Old Crow songs, it’s a reworking of an old blues song, performed at a tempo evocative of the title.

Old Crow is all about high energy and musical chops, wandering among genres with at least one toe clinging to the old American songbook. Not many bands go from Tom Petty’s “Stop Dragging My Heart Around” to “Sweet Amarillo,” a lovely old Texas waltz.

The story of “Wagon Wheel” says something about the arc of the band. Secor heard the chorus on an old Bob Dylan bootleg, then wrote the verses himself. When he researched the copyright, he discovered that Dylan had written the chorus riffing off a phrase he’d heard in the song “Rock Me Mama” by Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup. Secor and Dylan share the songwriting credit for “Wagon Wheel,” which was a hit both for Old Crow and, even more so, Darius Rucker.

The New Year’s Eve show featured a nice interlude in which all the members of the band remembered artists who were lost in 2023, including Sinead O’Connor, Jimmy Buffett, and Robbie Robertson. (Shane Macgowan was an unfortunate omission as well as a missed opportunity for Secor and Tuttle to sing “Fairytale of New York".)

The highlight of the show came in the encore, when band and guests – as well as just about everyone at the Ryman - sang The Band’s “The Weight.”

One can see why the folks at the Ryman have turned over New Year’s Eve to the Old Crow Medicine Show for the last 14 years.


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