Review BY MARK LONG Special to The Post and Courier
No hat was passed around. No kids were pushed forward by Mom and Dad to add to the sprinkling of dollar bills in an open guitar-case. But the Ketch and Critter Reunion Tour show in the College of Charleston’s Cistern Yard had all the drive and energy of a busking band feeling out the audience and working the crowd to give us what we wanted, as though dinner and a warm shower depended on it.
If they had been singing for their supper, Ketch Secor, Critter Fuqua, Morgan Jahnig and Chance McCoy, would have dined high on the pig’s back tonight. A grand opening to this year’s festival: spanning genres, rambling back and forth over the American songbook from Woody to Whitney, reaching young and old alike under the oft-mentioned downtown oaks.
The show was all we’d been led to believe about Ketch and Critter’s music: alt country, folk, old timey, mountain, but perhaps most of all, Southern. There’s an authenticity about life lived locally, connected to places, from looking your farmer in the eye, to knowing the land and its characters, to small batch rye whisky. Powerful stuff, like tonight’s music.
This band is steeped in the lore — even during the sound-check Ketch crooned South Carolina place-names from Columbia to Orangeburg, from Denmark to Yemassee. And on stage they reeled off everywhere from Daufuskie to Hollywood to Folly Beach, and found time for Rhett Butler and Strom Thurmond. The recent unpleasantness was very much on their minds.
Most successful as a string band with Jahnig’s bass driving the show, they regaled us with classics from their “other band” Old Crow Medicine Show and with tales from America’s wars in Vietnam and Iraq; cajoled the audience to dance — Wagon Wheel saw hundreds boogie stage-side; and sent us packing to the airs of Get Along Home Cindy, Cindy. After four years not playing together professionally, these performers, seasoned for all their youthful looks and energy, are back. Happily for Charlestonians and visitors both, they sparkle for the reunion.
Musicians are nomads following long tracks across space, from counties to countries, sometimes continents. Spoleto puts Charleston on the map for artists far and wide. It can take time, but usually troubadours such as Ketch and Critter find their way back to places. Perhaps this is the biggest take away from this show chock-a-block full of foot-stomping goodness: they’ll be back; and with any luck it won’t be long.