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Review: Old Crow Medicine Show, 50 Years of Blonde on Blonde

By Noah Johnson

To attempt celebrating a masterpiece by recreating it, is certainly not an easy feat. It is easy to find bland and almost identical movie sequels or exaggerated covers of songs throughout the pop culture canon. In attempting to recreate Bob Dylan’s 1966 album, Blonde on Blonde, the Nashville-based Americana band, Old Crow Medicine Show, proved that such challenge can be accomplished.

Blonde on Blonde is a masterpiece. Dylan stated in an interview that, “The closest I ever got to the sound I hear in my mind was on… the Blonde on Blonde album. It’s that thin, that wild mercury sound. It’s metallic and bright gold with whatever that conjures up”. Throughout the album, the Nobel Laureate blended that surreal sound, modernist and surreal lyricism, with a more colloquial and traditional blues structure and diction.

Ketch Secor, the band leader of Old Crow Medicine Show, sang lead vocals on ten of the fourteen songs and interspersed his manic mannerisms and dramatic stories throughout the music. A telling summation of the night occurred while Secor was lamenting about never having met Dylan despite sharing co-authorship of their popular song, “Wagon Wheel”. While he never got to meet Dylan, Secor stated that “tonight he gets to be Bob”.

In doing his best Dylan impersonation, Secor told stories that at first seemed farfetched, but then drew you in to a state of blind belief and enchantment, only to leave you at the end not caring or noticing whether those stories were true at all. A skill that Dylan appears to achieve so nonchalantly in his songs.

Adding their own flavour to the night, the band exaggerated the novelty songs beyond Dylan’s subtlety. For example, the band entered in a marching band drum line for “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35”. Cory Yount’s, keyboard and slide guitarist, performed a promiscuously choreographed and spoken word style version of “Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat”. They turned a few of the numbers, including “Most Likely You’ll Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine)”, “Pledging My Time”, and “Obviously 5 Believers”, into a fiery hillbilly mix of fiddle, banjo, and mandolin that Old Crow Medicine Show has seemed to perfect. Though for some of the more lyrically astonishing songs their reinterpreted versions stayed closer to Dylan’s versions. These included the longer more acoustic guitar focused songs “Visions of Johanna”, “Just Like a Woman”, and “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands”.

While the a night was all about Bob, the encore was implicitly devoted to a friend of Bob’s, Tom Petty. Petty, one of the great American rock stars, had just passed away that day and the band paid their respects with a fun and rocking medley of Petty songs, “I Won’t Back Down”, “Breakdown”, and their often covered “American Girl”.

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