Enter a 10-piece marching band, complete with a drum line, accordion, and harmonica. And a pop star to front the group. The Factory at Franklin taped another of its acclaimed CMT Crossroads specials on Tuesday, Nov. 21, this time with Kesha and Old Crow Medicine Show (OCMS).
What made the pop star/bluegrass band pairing so unique was a chance to hear Kesha completely acoustic. Only two electric instruments on stage: keyboard and steel guitar. No obvious programmed tracks adorned any performance.
That’s not to say OCMS’s 10-piece band did not have the musical force of a freight train. Performances like Kesha’s bombastic “Woman,” and “Timber” were hardly noticeable in their new bluegrass wash.
Kesha, a Nashville native, gave praise to her side-stage mother and songwriter, Pebe Sebert, for a particular track on her latest record, Rainbow.
“My mom wrote [“Old Flames Can’t Hold a Candle to You”],” said Kesha of the 1980 release. “Dolly Parton sang it…Merle Haggard. Now, we’re gonna sing it.”
Perhaps one of the closest track OCMS could relate in Kesha’s repertoire, “Old Flames…” allowed wide-eyed, lead vocalist Ketch Secor an opportunity to shine vocally and instrumentally.
Sebert also wrote the 2010 No. 1 hit, which Kesha and OCMS performed, twice: “Your Love Is My Drug.”
There was nearly zero audience engagement. The breaks between retakes offered the bands an opportunity to rehearse harmonies and touch-up makeup. The gathering ranged in age some 40 years above many of the 18 year old audience members. One out of touch attendee was debating the lyrics of “Woman,” Don’t touch my “weed” or “weave.” It’s the latter.
Perhaps what will be most interesting, and perhaps was most touchy in selecting a pairing for Kesha, was the radio-friendly verison of the title, “Woman.” A reference to the 2016 attempt at a slur towards Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential debate. “Turns out it’s an awesome thing to own ‘Nasty Woman,’” said Secor, who claimed ignorance to the female empowerment movement until Kesha’s lyrics—albeit revised to cover an expletive from the album.
With powder pink hair donning a black shoulder cape above an A-frame skirt embroidered with floral rhinestones, Kesha blazed through illicit titles in OCMS’s discography, like “Everybody Must Get Stoned” and “Tell It To Me,” featuring lyrics like Cocaine’s gonna kill my honey dead.But it was her own titles where Kesha’s vocals really popped. A medley was performed with Kesha’s latest “Spaceship,” “Hunt You Down,” and 2013 ‘s “Timber.” During the latter title, Kesha ornamented the introduction, calling out each OCMS bandmember, cracking the whip to harness their strings in building the track. OCMS showed they are masters of their craft.
“I appreciate [OCMS] learned it,” said Kesha about her backing band. “Because this is a mother f***** of a medley.”
OCMS, who were inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2013, also performed their “Take ‘Em Away,” “We’re All In This Together.” Despite copious titles about drugs and sex, Kesha and OCMS persuaded onlookers, including elder members of the audience, to dance along, perhaps unaware or unfazed. The closing title, “Wagon Wheel,” marked maybe the most persuasive dance number.
There won’t be any promotional social media footage. This was the first taping to enforce a no-cell phone policy, requiring electronic devices to be contained inside locked pouches.
CMT Crossroads featuring Kesha and Old Crow Medicine Show will air Dec. 6 at 9 p.m. CT.
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