Old Crow Medicine Show's shadow loomed larger over Iowa this summer. Mumford & Sons (June 20, Waverly), The Avett Brothers (July 8, Council Bluffs) and Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros (July 31, St. Charles) all owe a big debt to Old Crow. On Saturday night 7,200 fans at Hinterland got to experience it first hand.
The old-timey Nashville band began its set with "Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer," taking the stage in various kinds of face paint. Next up was "Alabama High-Test," with singer Ketch Secor playing hard on the fiddle, followed by 'Take Em Away."
'It's Saturday night in a cornfield in Central Iowa," Secor said. "What could be finer on God's green earth?"
Old Crow has its country bonafides; they're members of the Grand Ole Opry, but they're about as far removed from modern country as Model T is from a Ford Mustang. The band is heavy on fiddle, banjo and piano and goes full tilt motor mouth on songs like "Bootlegger's Boy."
The band played a mix of covers and original tunes. "C.C. Rider" and the Carter Family's "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" were both featured in the set, the latter with the band crowded around a single microphone. Then there was the encore, but more on that later.
And, of course, there's "Wagon Wheel." It's a song unlike almost anything in the band's catalog, but it's also Old Crow's most popular song. It came from a Bob Dylan demo and was fleshed out into a full song by band member Ketch Secor. It's since become a multi-platinum hit for both Old Crow and Darius Rucker and is more or less the "Stairway to Heaven" of folk singers.
But back to the encore. After "Wagon Wheel" and a lively "8 Dogs 8 Banjos," Old Crow briefly left the stage, returning for a cover of Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down." Then Old Crow brought Brandi Carlile and the Hanseroth twins back on stage, allowing them to return the favor or Old Crow joining their set.
First up from the super group was a cover of Jim Croce's "Bad Bad Leroy Brown," with the entire crowd singing along. When was the last time 7,000 people sang that song as once? Has it ever happened? Then the group tackled the classic "Folsom Prison Blues," with Carlile and Younts trading off on Johnny Cash's lyrics.
Then the musicians left the stage, having set high expectations for Hinterlands to follow. How do you top sets like these? We'll just have to wait and see.