In the 18 years since he helped assemble Old Crow Medicine Show, Chris “Critter” Fuqua has never felt like part of a scene.
He didn’t sense any belonging to a country contingency that had long forsaken the kind of roots-inspired string sounds the Crow crew embraced. But there was also no special kinship to the growing number of string bands that began to emerge in the wake of Old Crow’s breakthrough among a growing Americana audience with the O.C.M.S. album in 2004
So with a 2015 Grammy win to its credit, a pair of concerts (one of which is sold out) that mark the band’s first Lexington performance stop in more than a decade and a generally refreshed perspective on recording and touring, just what camp does multi-instrumentalist Fuqua think Old Crow belongs to?
“I don’t know. We kind of do what we do and let the music do what it does,” Fuqua says. “I never really felt a part of a scene. The funny thing is, I don’t really listen to any of the Americana stuff when I’m off the road. I don’t have my pulse on that scene. It just feels so insular when I’m with Old Crow because I’m just focused on what we’re doing. It’s hard to keep up with everything else because there are so many bands out now. I just keep up with what we’re doing. That’s all I can do.”
But like it or not, Fuqua, co-founding Old Crow fiddler Ketch Secor (the two met in the seventh grade) and the rest of the band almost unintentionally became an establishment attraction in 2015 after picking up a Grammy for Best Folk Album — not country album or Americana album, but folk — for its most recent recording, Remedy.
“Everybody is always like, ‘Yeah, awards don’t mean that much.’ Then when you get one, you’re like, ‘Yeah, awards are pretty cool.’ I mean, my attitude, really, was that it was great to be nominated,” Fuqua says. “Then when you’re out there, you’re thinking, ‘Well, it was great to be here, and it’s great to be nominated.’ But then you’re kind of like, ‘Well, I’m sitting here. It would be nice to win.’ It’s weird how the whole scene gets you.
“Before, honestly, I never thought about Grammys. Ever. Then when you’re nominated, you’re like, ‘I deserve it.’ It kind of gets into your head. Personally, awards don’t mean that much. But when you’re nominated and you get into that world, you start getting affected by it. It’s strange.”
I guess people forget that country music can still be creative.
Remedy also marked a re-emergence for the band. After a grueling touring schedule that had grinded on with few breaks since the success of O.C.M.S., Old Crow went on hiatus in the late summer of 2011. But Fuqua had already bowed out of the band to kick a mounting alcohol addiction and to eventually attend college in Kerrville, Texas, where he studied English (“I’m fluent now,” he says).
“I left the band to get sober and didn’t go back because I was going to school,” Fuqua says. “I kind of needed that break. But I think it was a necessary break for the band, too. It just happened.”
In the end, Remedy turned out to be just that — a brawl of an acoustic roots music record that assimilates vintage country, ragtime, Prohibition Era blues and elements of rock ’n’ roll in spirit rather than style. The inspirations still call out to the string music of eras past but with an immediacy that makes it sound like anything but a museum piece.
“The thing with this musical form — which is labeled, I guess, Americana now — is that back in the day, it used to be brand new,” Fuqua says. “It lends itself to whatever is going on around you. It doesn’t have to be about dogs and fiddles and jugs of moonshine, although we sing about that stuff (all are covered vividly on Remedy). But this music really lends itself to collaboration with different sources. I guess people forget that country music can still be creative.”
Read Walter Tunis’ blog, The Musical Box, at LexGo.com
If You Go
Old Crow Medicine Show
Opener: Parker Milsap
When: 8 p.m. March 30 and 31
Where: Singletary Center for the Arts, 405 Rose St.
Tickets: $39.50, $42 (March 30 only; March 31 show is sold out)