Show of the Week | 50 Years of ‘Blonde on Blonde’ with Old Crow Medicine Show

by Khrysi Briggs on November 8, 2017 in Living Texas, Austin, Music,

If you’re looking for an unforgettable night of musical nostalgia in Austin this weekend, consider spending an evening with Bob Dylan.

On Friday night at Bass Concert Hall, GRAMMY Award-winning Old Crow Medicine Show will be performing Bob Dylan’s eponymous Blonde on Blonde in its entirety. The band is currently on the tail end of a nearly year-long tour in support of their most recent live album, 50 Years of Blonde on Blonde, which showcases them doing far more than just covering Bob Dylan tunes – they have completely reimagined them.

Lead vocalist Ketch Secor admits that while they happily “borrowed, begged, and stole from Bob,” these renditions are entirely Old Crow Medicine Show. The band listened to every single recording of the 14 tracks that make up Blonde on Blonde – outtakes, live recordings, bootlegs, you name it. And in the end, they sufficiently infused their own unique energy into every note and lyric. “Altogether we took Dylan’s 1966 Blonde On Blonde out of the dust jacket, scratched it up and melted it down, recast it, cut new grooves, and played it at 78 speed, all the while incorporating another truth we learned by listening to the master himself: when it comes to music nothing is sacred.”

See, Old Crow Medicine Show inherently understands one of the greatest lessons Bob Dylan ever taught us – in music, and in life, it is imperative to change, shift, pivot, keep moving, don’t stop. It’s one of the driving forces that guided the political and social climates of the 1960’s, and the boys of OCMS learned it well – and this was long before they learned Blonde on Blonde, “perhaps, Dylan’s most intensely lyrical of albums,” by heart – start to finish.

Of the actual learning process, Secor says “I sang my children to sleep with ‘Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands’ every night for a month until I remembered not to confuse ‘with your sheets like metal and your belt like lace‘ with ‘with your sheet metal memories of Cannery Row.’ I dreamed and ate and walked and drove with 11 verses stuck inside my head of ‘Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again,’ sailing through my brain with the fever of an actor trying to memorize Coleridge’s ‘Rhyme Of The Ancient Mariner.’ After two months of practice I could recite the whole Blonde On Blonde album like the long-form, rambling, disembodied poem it is.”

And now, nearly 20 years after Old Crow Medicine Show got their start busking on street corners, things seem to be coming full-circle. They consistently sell out the famed music halls their heroes and predecessors inhabited, are members of the Grand Ole Opry, and have gone what Secor calls “improbably platinum.” They have played with everyone, from music royalty Willie Nelson to indie starlings The Lumineers. Their Big Easy Express Tour (and accompanying documentary) captured a joyous and unforgettable musical adventure cross country on a train, where they embarked on a once-in-a-lifetime sonic journey with Mumford & Sons and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. And even then, you get the sense that they are still excited just to be invited to the party. It’s that authentic exuberance that is the driving force behind their pulsing, raucous live shows.

In 2015, Old Crow Medicine Show won the Best Folk Album GRAMMY for Remedy, a beautiful body of work that intertwined folk sensibilities with an Americana sound that was simultaneously modern and traditional. Years before they took home that trophy, another great folk act won this same award. Before the Traditional and Contemporary Folk categories combined in 2012, the great folk troubadour Mr. Bob Dylan himself took home the trophy for both.

Whether you take a date, your kids, or just sneak in through the back door like you used to in the ’60s, this set easily wins our pick for show of the week in Austin. For a Friday night of strings, songs, joy and nostalgia, you can still get tickets through the Bass Concert Hall Box Office.


Cover photo by Danny Clinch