Old Crow Medicine Show flaunts their newfound creative freedom in “Paint This Town”


Kit Wood

Old Crow Medicine Show band members (left to right) Morgan Jashnig, Mason Via, Ketch Secor, Jerry Pentecost, Cory Younts and Mike Harris.

Celestine J. Epps, [email protected], Assistant Arts & Features Editor

The Grammy-winning and seasoned Americana band, Old Crow Medicine Show, honor their down-to-earth roots and compilation of country influences in their new album, “Paint This Town.”   

The Nashville sextet effortlessly integrates their hootenanny sound with lyrical compositions about current events such as strip-mining in “Used to Be a Mountain”, and showing respect to the first black country artist to be a member at the Grand Ole Opry in “DeFord Rides Again.”   

It was 1998 when the band began playing in venues throughout the East Coast and Western North Carolina before being discovered by the legendary guitarist and folk singer, Doc Watson in Boone, NC.   

During their 24-year career, Old Crow Medicine Show experienced numerous changes before welcoming instrumentalists Jerry Pentecost, Mike Harris and Mason Via to the band alongside members Ketch Secor, Morgan Jahnig and Cory Younts.    

Harris, a North Carolina native, performed nationally for 13 years before joining the band in 2019. The slide guitarist spent a majority of his upbringing around bluegrass music, attributing Tony Rice and Jerry Garcia as a few of his many inspirations.   

“DeFord is a very important person to everybody in the band and we wanted to continue to tell his story as a band, and kind of use our platform to be a mouthpiece to speak for injustice in the world,” Harris said. “I look forward to playing that one every night and telling his story the best we know how and exposing a new audience to not only his music but his story.”   

The ninth track, “DeFord Rides Again” precedes with a high energy train rhythm on the harmonica played by Ketch Secor, embodying the Pan-American blues groove of the late DeFord Bailey while summarizing his impact on country music history. Bailey earned the title “Harmonica Wizzard” for his talent and innovation on the harmonica, mixing melodies and improvisation of his instrument. 23 years later, DeFord was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame for his pioneering artistry.   

“New Mississippi Flag,” the tenth track explores a concept of the new South and inclusive representations of southern pride: “Yes, and it’s high time that she honors all/ The ones that justice never called/ And all her sons and daughters who died on the road to change.”   

“We’re living in a time in which there’s a great undoing of the mythologies that were created in order for the South to alter its view of itself, and with that undoing comes a repurposing,” Secor said.   

 Prior to the COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020, the band set out to transform the East Nashville property into a professional sanctuary at the Hartland Studio where their seventh studio album was recorded. Unlike previous compositions, Secor said completing all the work and recording in their own space “felt less like a chore,” eliminating some of the pressure to produce new music.   

“It’s just nice to have a home base like that you could say. We have a very high level of comfortability in that space and it really feels like home,” Harris said.   

“Paint This Town” captures the energetic spirit of the bluegrass genre, with smooth transitions from one tune to the next without losing their listeners to slower tracks like “Gloryland” and “Honey Chile.” Old Crow Medicine Show tackles emotionally taxing subjects with a personal twist that guarantees listeners will be out of breath by the last song.   

Morgan Jahnig, upright bassist and Tennessee native, has been with the band for over 20 years, contributing to the deep and joyful twang in the lead-off “Paint This Town,” and “Reasons to Run.”   

“At the end of the day, we’re still just trying to stop you on the street and get you to put a dollar in the guitar case,” says Jahnig. “Then once we’ve got your attention, we’re gonna tell you about things like the opioid epidemic and the Confederate flag and what’s happening with the environment—but we’re gonna do it with a song and dance.”   

Old Crow Medicine Show is on tour promoting “Paint This Town” and performs at the Salvage Station on June 9 at 6:30 p.m.   


Editor’s Note (June 7, 2022): This story was edited for accuracy.