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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.)

Customer Reviews

Not too distant cousin of mine.

My father was born the same year as Jean. My great-grandma was a Ritchie, the same clan of mountainous Perry Co., Ky. So many of the songs were of dark tragedy and horror. It's strange then to hear such a clear, sweet voice such as Jean, still do justice to the tradition. You'd think the subject matter of these stories would lend themselves to gruff, low sounds. But the breed of such people in Appalachia was tough at the core. I met many who hid well the hardship of their lives behind a wink and a smile. Listen to some of these tragic tales of terror, magnified by the isolation of mountain life. People carved by poverty & few choices. Add to that the hardships endured by Doc Watson, due to his 'orphaning' for his blindness.

Makes you wish you were there

"Jean Ritchie and Doc Watson at Folk City" makes me wish a was born about 20 years earlier! The pair compliment one another well and it is an excellent live album. I would recommend this album for fans folks who are already fan of Ritchie or Watson or both! However, if you're unfamiliar with their work, I would suggest buying "Jean Ritchie: Ballads from her Appalachian Family Tradition" or Doc Watson's self-titled album first, as those albums are more representative of their work.

Biography

Born: December 8, 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...
Full Bio