Grand Ole Opry members Old Crow Medicine Show took the stage of the Opry’s former home, the Ryman Auditorium, recently for a live, acoustic performance of their 2008 tune “Methamphetamine.” Joined by new guest member Charlie Worsham on guitar, the six musicians gather around one microphone, playing to an empty house, which adds an air of desolate intensity to the song about the ravages of drug addiction.
In an episode of the Opry’s ongoing series The Write Stuff, Ketch Secor talks about “Methamphetamine” and how it originated with a line first made famous by the German hard rock band Scorpions. “I wanted to write a song that had a line about ‘rock you like a hurricane.’ I grew up in the Eighties with [fellow OCMS member] Critter [Fuqua], in a town in which you just wanted to rock, you know, because everything felt like the opposite of rock.”
A blend of traditional blues, bluegrass and old-time mountain music, the song, originally featured on the group’s Tennessee Pusher album, was inspired by the band’s move to the Appalachian Mountains. Lead singer and fiddle player Secor, who wrote it with Americana powerhouse David Rawlings, notes that although Rawlings’ contribution was limited, it turned out to be significant.
“I played the chorus and it just didn’t go anywhere after… ‘It’s gonna rock you like a hurricane.’ Then Dave Rawlings said, ‘Methamphetamine!’ So Dave only wrote one word but that was the word,” he says.
As Secor details the sense of foreboding he experienced in the Appalachian region with regard to drug abuse, a graph on the screen provides a chilling illustration of the increase in national drug overdose deaths by opioid involvement (including meth).
“I hoped that by writing a song about crank in East Tennessee that I could add a little bit of the healing and restorative nature of music to something that’s really, really screwed up,” says Secor. “You can sing about moonshine and you can sing about mountain-top removal. I tried to roll it all up into one and say that meth is symbolic of the pillaging of the region of Appalachia that’s been happening for 200 years with almost total disregard for the folks who call it home.”
Old Crow Medicine Show will release Live at the Ryman on October 4th. The LP, featuring special guests Charlie Worsham and Margo Price, highlights the band’s long history with performances on the venerable stage, with live recordings at the “Mother Church of Country Music” from 2013 to 2019. The band will return to the venue for their annual New Year’s Eve shows on December 30th and 31st.
Here’s the track list for Old Crow Medicine Show‘s Live at the Ryman:
1. “Welcome to the Ryman”
2. “Tell It to Me”
3. “Shout Mountain Music”
4. “Take ‘Em Away”
5. “Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer”
6. “CC Rider” (Feat. Lee Oskar)
7. “Sixteen Tons”
9. “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man” (Feat. Margo Price)
10. “Wagon Wheel”
11. “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” (Feat. Charlie Worsham & Molly Tuttle)