Doc Watson, The Doc Watson Family

John Morthland

By John Morthland

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
Grade A pickin’ and singin’ from a legendary folk guitarist.

Though I've always been seduced by the intimacy of what's now titled The Original Folkways Recordings of Doc Watson and Clarence Ashley: 1960-1962, even that doesn't quite measure up to this 1963 follow-up. The North Carolina flat-picker was one of the two or three most influential folk-country guitarists of the last half century or so, and a seemingly bottomless repository of traditional music, though he retained a healthy respect for other forms (he was working as an electric rockabilly and western swing guitarist when first discovered by '60s folk researchers). He's been recorded in nearly every conceivable context but family brings out the best in Doc, whose sure, gentle tone and timing are impeccable and irresistible (he also plays some banjo, mandolin and autoharp). The harmonies on the spirituals are especially moving, but Doc tore into trad material like the hoary instrumental "Bonaparte's Retreat" with style and spirit that made it distinctly his own.