The Roundhouse is best known for a period in the late 1960s when it played host to the likes of Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones and the only UK show by The Doors. Dig a little deeper and the Grade II listed building that features a circular design, hence the name, has a very interesting history that dates back to 1847. The venue has been used for many ventures over the decades as initially it housed a railway turntable before it had a fifty year stretch as a storage facility for a Gin distillery. This sense of history, with its images of railways and alcohol consumption, feels like the perfect setting for tonight’s acts as both Parker Millsap and Old Crow Medicine Show draw on the past for their musical inspiration.
Parker Millsap (acoustic guitar / harmonica) and his band Michael Rose (upright bass) and the superb violin / fiddle work of Dan Foulks open proceedings with the slow burn of ‘You Gotta Move’ that captures the attention of a pretty full audience for an opening act. Millsap cuts a relaxed figure as he introduced himself as being from Oklahoma “which is not in England” and tells us a little about the fairy tale characters turned drug dealers of ‘Quite Contrary’ and that since he starting performing ‘The Morning Blues’ are not a problem, if you don’t get up before noon. The set also featured ‘Palisade’ with its jaw-dropping vocal gymnastics and a superb newer song, the engrossing ‘Heaven Sent’ about a young man coming out to his preacher father. Blessed with a loud and clear sound mix the trio moved a lot of air as they rocked harder than expected and, judging by the crowd reaction, Parker Millsap will have converted many of those attending to his cause on this showing. Let’s hope that the trio return for a headline show soon.
Headliner Old Crow Medicine Show took to the stage and immediately looked to be having a blast as they blew the crowd away with a quite stunning demonstration of musical dexterity coupled with some great songs. The band has been performing since 1998 and it shows, these boys can play and with most of the band taking a lead vocal during the evening the harmonies are glorious. If one band member showcases their abilities it’s Cory Younts who started the set on drums (great drum sound) and proceeded to play keys, mandolin and harmonica, cut a rug on the dance floor and even whistled a solo. The whistling, while wearing what looked like a London Bobby’s helmet, bought back childhood memories of Jack Warner in ‘Dixon of Dock Green’.
The musical dexterity I mentioned earlier demands that a host of, very smooth, musical instrument changes are required by the players (Ketch Secor must have every tuning of harmonica under the sun) with an ever present roadie / guitar tech becoming part of the show. He rushed on after every song with a least two guitars or banjos and even played a mandolin solo while Younts was otherwise engaged. Great fun.
With a set that featured multiple tracks from their most recent ‘Remedy’ release such as ‘O Cumberland River’ and ‘Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer’ alongside the Bob Dylan co-write ‘Sweet Amarillo’ which frontman Ketch Secor assured us was “39 years in the making.” Secor shares the majority of the lead vocals with childhood friend Critter Fuqua (slide guitar / guitar / banjo etc) which forms the cornerstone for their trademark harmonies. A rousingly raucous ‘8 Dogs 8 Banjos’ proved another highlight while ‘The Warden’ found the band huddled around a single mic for a nice acoustic arrangement of the track. An unexpected ‘Streets of London’ was a welcome, and fitting, surprise. Secor told us the band had worked out the Ralph McTell classic earlier that day behind the local tube station. The band also dug deep into their impressive catalogue with renditions of ‘Caroline’, ‘Alabama High-Test’ and the classic blues of ‘C. C. Rider’ during a ninety plus minute set. When the band launched into their signature tune, the Bob Dylan co-authored ‘Wagon Wheel’ the venue was rocking with superb harmonies by the band and the audience delivered their lines with gusto. A terrific moment occurred when the ubiquitous roadie played the central banjo lick in the tune (you know the one). After such a stunning performance the band would return for a three song encore with Parker Millsap and his band joining them for the Van Morrison penned ‘Into the Mystic’ with Millsap taking the lead vocal and would take their leave with a terrific version of the Tom Petty classic ‘American Girl’ to end the night on a high.
Easily a contender for the gig of the year Old Crow Medicine Show delivered something very special while Parker Millsap confirmed his position as a major artist on the rise. Stunning night.