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Jean Ritchie and Doc Watson At Folk City

Jean Ritchie

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Album Review

According to reissue annotator Joe Wilson, Doc Watson and Jean Ritchie had never heard of each other before they got together for a concert at Folk City in 1963, which says something about the 40-year-old Watson's obscurity at the time and about his limited knowledge of other performers, since 39-year-old Ritchie had been recording for more than a decade. The two had a lot in common, however, the North Carolina-born guitarist and banjo player sharing a repertoire of traditional material with the Kentucky-born dulcimer player. During their set (actually featuring only six songs performed together, with seven solos by Watson and four by Ritchie), they mixed murder ballads with spirituals and dance tunes. The titles included many songs that were familiar to country fans, and that would become familiar to folk fans as well: "Pretty Polly," "Wabash Cannonball," and "Amazing Grace." Especially interesting were "Go Dig My Grave," "Hiram Hubbard," and "House Carpenter," on which Watson played banjo and Ritchie sang. This was very much a joint appearance rather than a real duo outing, but the performers were sufficiently strong and complementary enough to make it work. (The 1990 Smithsonian/Folkways reissue added three tracks — "East Virginia," "Blue Ridge Mountain Blues," and "Pretty Saro" — to the original 1963 release.)

Biography

Born: 08 December 1922 in Viper, KY

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s

Jean Ritchie was born into a large and musical family in Viper, Kentucky in 1922. The Ritchie family was very much a part of the Appalachian folk tradition, and had committed over 300 songs (including hymns, traditional love songs, ballads, children's game songs, etc.) to its collective memory, a tradition that Ritchie has drawn on (as well as preserved and maintained) for the entire length of her performing career. She grew up in a home where singing was intertwined with nearly every task, and the...
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Jean Ritchie and Doc Watson At Folk City, Jean Ritchie
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