Blues performer collaborates with Nashville’s string band and weds an easygoing groove to a clear-eyed look at the last year.
Keb’ Mo’ and Old Crow Medicine Show have teamed up for the collaborative single “The Medicine Man,” which was written and recorded while the Covid pandemic spiraled in 2020.
Set to a loping groove with dashes of fiddle and banjo, “The Medicine Man” has an easygoing sound that almost conceals some sharper commentary on the crisis of the last year. Keb’ Mo’ assumes lead vocal duty here, wrestling with the physical and mental effects of the pandemic. The titular “Medicine Man,” of course, is less of a mystical, spiritual figure than a syringe packed with life-saving vaccine.
“You better lock your doors, turn on the news/The whole damn world is singin’ the blues/The President lost, but he don’t wanna go/Mother Earth, she needs a little help you know,” he sings, with harmonies from the Old Crow Medicine Show vocalists. Keb’ Mo’ and OCMS leader Ketch Secor have known each other for a few years and decided to work together while everyone was off the road and stuck at home.
“I was taking some time out at our house in California with my family,” Keb’ Mo’ says in a statement. “We were locked in and staying away from people. Doing Zoom writing appointments, watching Dr. Fauci on TV doing interviews, and it sparked some ideas. This was one of those songs that just came to me, and quickly. I woke up early one morning and wrote the whole thing in about 15 minutes.”
This is Keb’ Mo’s first release since 2019’s Moonlight, Mistletoe, and You. Old Crow Medicine Show’s last full-length was 2018’s Volunteer, but the group has released a handful of singles in the last year, including “Nashville Rising” and “Quarantined.”