Critter Fuqua isn’t one to shy away when discussing the impact Bob Dylan had on his life.
It’s one of the reasons excitement and humbleness gather in his voice when discussing the chance to honor one of his childhood idols as part of Old Crow Medicine Show’s live two-set rendition of 50 Years of Blonde on Blonde, a song-for-song tribute to Dylan’s classic album from 1966.
“I don’t think I ever really thought we’d be doing this as a tour for almost a year. It’s pretty cool,” said Fuqua, one of the band’s co-founders who plays guitar, slide guitar and banjo and provides vocals for the Grammy-winning Americana string band.
What started as a live show at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in 2016 turned into a live album released in 2017 and a subsequent tour last April. Old Crow Medicine Show’s latest stop comes Nov. 15 at The Jones Assembly, 901 W. Sheridan Ave.
A typical Old Crow show is what Fuqua best describes as one to “make sure you got a sober ride home, and you’ll get a Wagon Wheel guarantee.”
Wagon Wheel, of course, is a reference to the catchy hit song from the 2000s that stemmed from a bootleg Dylan tape Fuqua found during high school.
“[Old Crow frontman] Ketch Secor and I were just obsessed with Bob Dylan from a really early point, probably eighth grade or ninth grade,” Fuqua said. “We had all the records. Bob Dylan, especially for me and Ketch, I’d argue was the biggest influence on us musically.”
Old Crow’s roots with Dylan’s music made too much sense to the Country Music Hall of Fame when they asked the band to perform live for the anniversary of Blonde on Blonde.
So far, the tour has been met with rousing success.
“Every show we’ve played, they’ve loved it,” Fuqua said. “I think people really dig it, which is cool.”
Fuqua used the word “tricky” when asked to explain what a live performance of 14-track 50 Years of Blonde on Blonde is like. The OKC show is among the final stops for Old Crow in 2017. The band plays in Arkansas on Nov. 16 and ends the year with a two-night New Year’s Eve performance in Nashville.
Loyal Old Crow fans won’t have much of an opportunity to hear the band’s core music in OKC — Fuqua said Old Crow will mix in a few originals during the encore — but Fuqua said the spin on Dylan’s music is still “an Old Crow show, by all means.”
What Fuqua means is the energy is still there.
The band prides itself on creating an organic sound, as evidenced by the versatility of its members.
“We’re just everywhere. It’s really cool. Whatever works, we just do that,” Fuqua said. “It kind of looks haphazard, but it’s actually very planned and rehearsed.”
Old Crow hits the 20-year mark in 2018, a long, winding journey from a group that started out busking on the streets of North Carolina.
The band has released five major studio albums, the latest of which came in 2014. Fuqua said Old Crow recorded music last year for a new album scheduled to debut in February.
Along the way, the band’s popularity continues to grow, although its roots remain intact.
Fuqua and Secor grew up in Virginia, but the band morphed into what it is today in upstate New York. It spent less than a year in Ithaca, New York, but it served as a breeding ground for music as well as a meeting ground for former members Willie Watson and Ben Gould.
“There’s a real hotbed of old-time fiddle music and old-time bands coming out of upstate New York and Ithaca, more than where we grew up in the South in Virginia,” Fuqua said. “That was a real special time for us.”
Fuqua said venues like The Jones Assembly, a new restaurant, bar and music venue that has already hosted such acts as Third Eye Blind and Matisyahu, bring Old Crow “back a little bit” to its humble beginnings.
“I think we do better in older theaters, newer playhouses. The more intimate, the better,” Fuqua said. “I think the bigger the venue, you get the less real connection you have with your fans. The show is about the band and the audience. If there’s not connection, then it’s not really a show.”
Old Crow last played in OKC back in 2012 at Diamond Ballroom. Fuqua admitted previous gigs run together since there are so many, but he recalled the experience in OKC as being “pretty cool.”
Much has changed since that show.
In 2013, Old Crow’s Remedy won a Grammy for Best Folk Album. A year later, the band picked up another Grammy when Big Easy Express won best long form music video.
Fuqua can’t speak for the band, but he personally doesn’t care or feel the need to crave more exposure, although it’s likely to happen.What he can say is Old Crow is better than ever.
“Things are the best they’ve been. It’s the most comfortable we’ve been. It’s the most normal, comfortable existence after almost 20 years of playing together,” he said. “We’ve definitely, I think, paid our dues.”
Old Crow Medicine Show: Blonde on Blonde
8 p.m. Nov. 15
The Jones Assembly
901 W. Sheridan Ave.
Print headline: Going Blonde; Old Crow Medicine Show brings the sound of Bob Dylan to The Jones Assembly.