This weekend should be a great trip back in time for Jay Ketcham "Ketch" Secor, the vocalist and fiddler with Old Crow Medicine Show, a hot new band he co-founded that specializes in old-time country and bluegrass.
The band will perform Saturday at the Aiken Bluegrass Festival on Newberry Street.
It will be Mr. Secor's first trip to Aiken since the mid-'80s, when he was 7 and attended Mead Hall Episcopal School where his father, James J. Secor III, was headmaster.
"When I lived in Aiken it was a pretty good time in my life," Mr. Secor said in a telephone interview from his home in Charlottesville, Va. "I remember it pretty well. It probably was the first town that I remember everything. It was so different. We had moved there from the Midwest, so it was quite a different world, but I took it in real quick."
His father is now headmaster at the Episcopal School of Knoxville, Tenn.
Old Crow Medicine Show was "discovered" five years ago by the daughter of bluegrass legend Doc Watson, playing outside a drugstore in Boone, N.C. Since then, the band has gained national attention for its devotion to traditional, rural sounds and energetic stage performances.
The band's music video of its song Tell It to Me has aired on cable television's GAC and CMT. In January, Grammy Award winner Norah Jones performed the band's We're All in This Together (co-written by Mr. Secor and band mate William "Willie" Watson) on the Tsunami Aid concert televised on NBC.
And the band earned a standing ovation at its first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry on Jan. 12, 2001, playing Tear It Down in Nashville's historic Ryman Auditorium, where the Opry show is staged in winter months.
Since then, Old Crow has performed several times as guests artists at the Opry and will return to the Ryman for a concert on June 23. The opening act will be Open Road, a bluegrass band from Colorado that recently performed at Stillwater Taproom in Augusta.
"There is so much history at the Ryman," Mr. Secor said. "When you're there participating with the ever-unfolding history of music at the Ryman, you feel like all of your moves are historical. It's a very powerful feeling."
Mr. Secor said his family lived on Newberry Street in Aiken and there was a railroad trestle near his home.
"The train passed on the trestle going up to Columbia every day," Mr. Secor said. "There were some hoods in the neighborhood who would jump on that train and ride it up to Columbia and come back in the evenings and tell me about it. I would go up to that railroad trestle and just look at those passing trains going up to Columbia and think about where those trains could take me."
Old Crow has been in Nashville's Woodland Studio most of the spring working on a new CD. It will follow their current self-titled release on Nettwerk Records, and their previous independent releases Greetings From Wawa (2000), Eutaw (2001) and Live Album (2003).
"I think country music fans will love our music," Mr. Secor said, "because country music fans are the ones who are most able to recognize that there is a correlation between a guy like Blind Willie McTell and a guy like Hank Williams. They are both singing with a passion that is real. They are singing about their life stories. They are singing about themselves. They are singing their own blues.
"Country fans will recognize when they will hear our music - whether it's a song recorded in 1925 that we redid or a song we wrote in 2005 - that it's honest."
Don Rhodes has written about Country Music for 34 years. He can be reached at (706) 823-3214 or at email@example.com
WHAT: Aiken Bluegrass Festival
WHEN: Gala event Friday, main festival Saturday
WHERE: Friday, Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 126 Newberry St.; Saturday, Newberry Street festival site
Friday: Mountain Heart, doors open at 7 p.m.
Saturday: gates open at noon
12:15 p.m.: Darlene and The Amicks
1:15 p.m.: Split Rail
2:15 p.m.: Doug and the Henrys
3:15 p.m.: Salt Creek
4:15 p.m.: Savannah River Grass
5 p.m.: Larry Keel
6:30 p.m.: Peter Rowan and Tony Rice
8 p.m.: Old Crow Medicine Show
9:30 p.m.: Acoustic Syndicate
COST: For Friday, $60, some $45 tickets for ages 35 and younger; for Saturday, $10 in advance (www.tixonline, Anything Goes in North Augusta, MoonBeans and Aiken Chamber of Commerce in Aiken) or $15 at the gate; benefits STAR Riding & Driving Inc.
INFORMATION: Visit aikenbluegrassfestival.org.
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