Sometimes taking an old approach is the best way to ensure creating something new.
The influences and sonic signatures Ketch Secor and Critter Fuqua, founding members of the popular alt-country string ensemble Old Crow Medicine Show, are easily identifiable.
Elements of mountain music, country, bluegrass and California classic rock are the foundation on which Old Crow and the duo, known as Ketch & Critter, that preceded that band have built their success.
Recently, Ketch & Critter reunited to explore what the music they have and continue to write might sound like more stripped down.
Performing as both a duo and trio with Old Crow bass player Morgan Jahnig, Ketch & Critter have found success and support with their minimal approach to American music.
I talked to Critter Fuqua last week in conjunction with the group’s upcoming May 26 appearance at Papa Joe’s Banjo-B-Que Bluegrass Festival and was pleased to hear that while his participation in Old Crow has been minimal the past several years, the connection he shares with his old performing partner has not diminished.
“Ketch and I started out playing as a duo so we knew we could do this,” he said. “For me, one of the cool things about this is discovering that audiences respond to it too. It really speaks to the power of a duo, of a small group, particularly in country music.”
I asked Fuqua how playing in a duo or, in the case of the Banjo-B-Que set, a trio, affected songs that might have originally been written and arranged for a larger group. He said a smaller group leaves each member with more space to improvise and experiment. It adds, he said, to the live experience.
“Of course that is not a conscious decision,” he said with a laugh. “It’s just the nature of this music. It’s not unusual for a song to change from one night to the next.”
He said playing these songs as a small ensemble allows Ketch & Critter to write and respond to string band music in the way it was always intended. Bluegrass, he said, isn’t about nostalgia. It’s about innovation.
“At one time this was all brand new,” he said. “It can be again. That’s what we try to communicate.”
GET AMPED. Here at Pop Rocks Central we’ve been putting the final polish on the new and improved event that will replace our beloved The Augusta Chronicle Singer-Songwriter Contest.
Fans need not fear – the basics remain similar, if not the same. We will still be looking for original compositions by Augusta musicians of every ilk and we’ll still be celebrating that talent on the big stage at Arts in the Heart of Augusta.
How the acts will get there, how they might be rewarded and even the name, however, will change.
Keep watching Applause both in print and online for details and the official call for submission. Until then, start putting those songs together. We’ll be looking for them soon.