Daryl Hall made a house call on Darius Rucker in Charleston for an episode of his Live From Daryl’s House series a few years ago. By my lights there isn’t a bad song or a dull moment in the episode. The whole episode is posted here and it’s all highlights.
Darius’s number 1 country hit “Wagon Wheel” was a revelation to me (video below). I was unfamiliar with the song. In this performance the tempo is just right and the mandolin provides the grace notes that other versions of the song give to the banjo or dobro. The chorus all but invites you to sing along. If you join in, you can’t be angry or even unhappy (unless you have been infected by the backlash to the song, in which case never mind).
The song is a classic travelogue in which the narrator is hitchhiking his way to his lady, from New Hampshire to Raleigh, North Carolina. You gotta love the “New England/string band” rhyme and the climactic line: “And if I die in Raleigh, at least I will die free.”
Well, where did that song come from? There is a story there.
Bob Dylan worked up the melody and the chorus while he was writing and recording songs for Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid in early 1973. The unfinished sketch turned up under the name “Rock Me Mama” on a bootleg album. (The track is posted here on YouTube.)
Ketch Secor heard the track and wrote verses for the song. Having worked out the copyright with Dylan, Secor recorded the song with Old Crow Medicine Show on their first album, released in 2004. (There is a story there too.) The OCMS version of the song has been certified platinum, but Darius picked up the song and put his own mark on it.