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5 Albums I Can't Live Without

5 Albums I Can’t Live Without: Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show

(Credit: Joshua Black Wilkins)

Name  Ketch Secor 

Best known for  The guy who stole “Wagon Wheel” from Dylan.

Current city  Nashville, TN

Really want to be in  As I write this I’m just leaving Alaska where we headlined the state’s largest music event, Salmonfest. So, I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I love the North Country. There’s a town up there called Old Crow, Yukon. People used to ask me how I got the name for my band and I’d say I named it for that town. One of these days, I’m heading up there to write an album of Arctic-inspired songs.

Excited about  My band’s 25th anniversary album Jubilee comes out at the end of summer! It’s been such an amazing journey being with Old Crow Medicine Show since the ‘90s. A lot has changed in a quarter century, but our music has stayed true all these years.

My current music collection has a lot of  Molly Tuttle ‘cause she’s the best bluegrass picker on the planet.

And a little bit of  Punk rock.

Preferred format  My band’s first recorded medium was cassette, which we made on a classic Tascam 4-Track recorder. My last car had a tape deck, so I really enjoyed the nostalgia of popping in tapes and shopping for them at thrift stores. I just got streaming 10 years after everyone else and, as a fan of obscure folk music, it’s been blowing my mind how easily I can get my ears on so many rare archival sounds. But the fidelity’s too good. When I travel, I listen to a lot of AM radio. Everything sounds better when it crackles.

5 Albums I Can’t Live Without:


Blood on the Tracks, Bob Dylan

I’m kind of a Bob whiz. I know A LOT about this guy I’ve never met, but whose music I have devoured. And I can say without hyperbole that if you only ever listen to one Dylan record, make it this one. It sings like a lost chapter of Exodus, that’s how much of a sacred text this album is. 


At Folsom Prison, Johnny Cash

Listen to him singing 50 years ago to convicts and you will hear how Johnny Cash is a man at once free and condemned. He jeers at the guards and the wardens. He trashes the food and facilities. He loves on the inmates, champions them so much that his voice suggests a spiritual power to carry their hopes, dreams, and lamentations high above the walls. But he himself is a prisoner too, chained by his addictions. He barely gets through the sessions without amphetamines and alcohol and at times can barely stand at the microphone. Country music routinely displays this complex duality. The free are condemned and the condemned are free. I put this album on to remember that freedom should never be taken for granted. 


John Prine, John Prine

I miss John Prine. He died right when we needed him most, at the the onset of this country’s terrible divide. John was a unifying force for good. His songs lifted up the outcast, made heroes of the mundane, and never failed to find the humor in our unique humanness. I knew him, I sang with him, and once I ate meatloaf with him at the old Silver Sands Café off Rosa L Parks Boulevard in North Nashville. That joint didn’t survive COVID, either. I think John would probably point it out with a wry smile and a signature couplet if he was still around to write one more John Prine song. This is my favorite of his albums. 


Revival, Gillian Welch

I went to Portsmouth, New Hampshire when I was a 17-year-old senior in high school to take a mandolin workshop with the great David Grisman. It was held in the basement of the Portsmouth Music Hall. After the masterclass, the participants all got a ticket to see the Grisman Quintet in concert. I never turned out to be much of a mandolin player, but opening the show that night was a brand new folk duo from Nashville whose breakout album was about to be alt-country’s most acclaimed record that year. When Gillian Welch stepped onto the stage that night I knew that was where I wanted to be. It only took five years before I was on stage performing with her. Her partner David Rawlings would become our first producer. I bought Revival on cassette that night and started planning my move to Nashville. 


Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, Ray Charles 

I went to see Ray Charles in concert when I was a teenager. In the ‘90s he was everywhere, such a pop icon, singing on ads for Pepsi and Kentucky Fried Chicken. But I first heard him as a child in the ‘80s on “We Are the World.” Modern Sounds was a hugely groundbreaking album, and remains one the biggest-selling country albums of all-time. There’s an existential longing you hear, as if R&B could never completely satisfy the music of Ray’s heart, like his pain and heartache were simply too much for jazz to cover. What shines through is Ray’s deep and personal love for a country song. I would challenge any artist today to undergo a more convincing cross-genre exploration. Last year, Ray Charles was elected to become a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. It was long over due – but better late than never.