Critter Fuqua doesn't care too much about fixing any particular label on the music of Old Crow Medicine Show.
While terms like string band, bluegrass, country, folk and Americana have all circled the band in one way or another, Fuqua likes to see Old Crow Medicine Show as just one example of a long line of musicians playing American music. To illustrate, he points the 2012 Kennedy Center concert where Old Crow Medicine show joined a db iverse lineup—including Judy Collins, Tom Morello, Ani DiFranco and Jackson Browne—to celebrate Woody Guthrie's 100th birthday.
"That's exactly what American music is all about," Fuqua says. "Along with everybody who performed on that stage, and many more, we're just a link in the chain. Woody Guthrie was a link, Jimmie Rodgers was a link, Robert Johnson was a link. It's just link, link, link and that's American music."
Along the way, new artists add their own voices to the music, combining influences that may not be immediately apparent. As far as his own musical upbringing, Fuqua says he fell in love with Guns 'n' Roses and Nirvana as much as anything traditional.
"People sometimes forget that with bluegrass and old time music, at one time it was brand new. At one time, Earl Scruggs blew the doors open on what the banjo could do and it was revolutionary. It's not something that's a museum piece that's curated and under glass," Fuqua says. "American music has to grow and change. Country music and old time music is really a creative art form. You can go beyond singing about dogs on the porch and whiskey."
Formed in 1998, Old Crow Medicine Show got its start busking on New York City street corners before breaking through with the platinum single "Wagon Wheel," which singer Ketch Secor "co-wrote" with Bob Dylan by adding his own verses to a bootleg of Dylan singing the chorus. The band has shifted lineups since, but these days, Chance McCoy, Kevin Hayes, Morgan Jahnig and Cory Younts join Secor and Fuqua, regularly swapping instruments on stage.
"What we learned being on the street is exactly the energy we bring to every stage performance and that's what really captures the audience," Fuqua says. "It's not just about the music, it's about the entertainment value and putting on a great show and getting the audience involved."
This summer's shows feature Old Crown Medicine Show and Brandi Carlile co-headlining, recording covers of each other's songs to kick off the tour.
"Maybe on paper it doesn't make sense, but when you come to the show it's such a good combo," Fuqua says. "Brandi is the best. It's all about the energy and the passion and the spirituality of the music. With Brandi and us, it really shows that there aren't really walls when it comes to music. When everybody gets together for a live performance, it's about having a good time."