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The Doc Watson Family

Doc Watson

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Album Review

Doc Watson, grandfather of the folk revival movement, has had a profound influence on American traditional music. Not only did he pioneer the playing of fiddle tunes on a flattop guitar, but through his incessant touring has brought traditional music to a larger audience. This Smithsonian Folkways release captures not only Doc Watson, but almost a dozen family members at the height of their power and has been deservingly hailed as a classic recording. Right from the opening track, "Old Groundhog," Watson and family send the listener on an amazing journey into the American musical past and present. Incidentally, their performance of "Old Groundhog" is certainly the equal of Bascom Lamar Lunsford's "I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground," in terms of surreal country, capturing as it does race relations, commentary on shoe strings, as well directions for catching a groundhog. On "The House Carpenter," a weepy tale of that conflates religious and personal love, a haunting female voice sings almost off-key accompanied only by a fiddle that doubles on the melody. On the instrumental "Bonaparte's Retreat," Watson offers a droning, sea shanty-influenced version of this song staple of Mississippi river communities. Some of the family's best work is found in the spirituals scattered about the album. "When I Die" features a beautiful, uplifting three-part harmony, as does "The Lost Soul," which contains the wickedly abject refrain, "I'm paying now/the penalty." A fabulous record that's a must-listen for any serious fan of American music.

Customer Reviews

The Doc Watson Family

This is the real deal. Doc and his family keep music at the center of their lives, polishing their skills as they would perfect a favorite family recipe. Their obvious love for each story and each melody brings us right into the circle and holds us spellbound as the songs unfold. There is something so direct and honest that we can't turn away. This collection takes us back to the true relationship music has to life, before it became a commodity in our modern culture. For me, the first time I heard this album, in the '50s I believe, it was like a homecoming. Essential American music if you want to understand some of our deepest roots.

Biography

Born: March 3, 1923 in Deep Gap, NC

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

In the latter half of the 20th century there were three pre-eminently influential folk/country guitar players: Merle Travis, Chet Atkins, and Arthel "Doc" Watson, a flat-picking genius from Deep Gap, North Carolina. Unlike the other two, Watson was in middle age before gaining any attention. After 1960, though, when Watson was recorded with his family and friends in Folkways' Old Time Music at Clarence Ashley's, people remained in awe of this gentle blind man who sang and picked with a pure and emotional...
Full Bio