The influence of the late Doc Watson on bluegrass, folk, old-time, country, and flatpicking guitar cannot be overstated. His joy, musicality, and overall brilliance helped open acoustic music to generations of listeners dazzled by his sleight-of-hand guitar work, warm and engaging vocals, and sly sense of humor.
Now three musicians with long-standing ties to Doc have recorded a CD honoring their mentor, inspiration, and friend. T. Michael Coleman gave Doc the musical foundation he needed on bass, and was a loyal bandmate through his days with son Merle, the ever-faithful Jack Lawrence, and others. David Holt toured with Doc for over a decade in the final years of his life. And flatpicking legend Bryan Sutton counts Doc as one of his most significant influences. All three won Grammy Awards working with Doc.
Together, this trio recreates many of the legendary tunes from Doc Watson’s enormous repertoire. There are great versions of tunes like “Streamline Cannonball,” “Red Rocking Chair,” “Cindy,” “Darlin’ Cory,” and more that every fan of Doc’s music treasures. And there are tunes from outside of Doc’s typical work, including a smart original from Holt called “Hotel Wall” on which he reminisces about the nights when he would hear his traveling partner play guitar through the paper-thin wall of the adjacent hotel room. If only everyone could have heard those moments.
All of Doc’s signature sounds are here, including harmonica, slide guitar, hot flatpicking, clawhammer banjo, and more. Sutton, as you’d expect, takes this opportunity to carefully think out his solos and keep them close to the original source, much like he does when channeling the guitar sound of the late Charles Sawtelle when he plays with Hot Rize. Of course, Doc played hot, and Bryan lets it all roll out on a blistering version of “Hangman’s Reel” that would have had Doc calling out his approval of Bryan’s fiery licks in mid-song.
We’ve lost a lot of the great ones lately—the originators, the pioneers, the trailblazers. They won’t be back. But as long as their legacy is loved and handled with the kind of respect and admiration shown here for Doc Watson by brilliant musicians like David Holt, T. Michael Coleman, and Bryan Sutton, the music they created will live on. (Banjoman, Inc., P.O. Box 28, Fairview, NC, 28730, www.davidholt.com.)DJM