There never will be someone like Doc Watson again. A man of high integrity, inspirational talent, and a positive force on all of those who met him and heard or saw him perform. The first time this writer saw him perform was almost fifty years ago. His singing and guitar playing were riveting. His “aw shucks” delivery was genuine, and you knew you were in the presence of greatness. These performances here have all those qualities and more.
This program does a good job of presenting his career from the beginning, as a man looking for a way to become the breadwinner in his family, to the fruition of that career when he became an icon for what is good and right about American folk and bluegrass music. Doc Watson had more influence on bluegrass guitar playing than any other non-bluegrass guitar picker. His fiddle tunes, leads, and fills changed everyone’s perception of what could be done with a guitar.
Ironically, the first cut features Doc playing banjo on “Shady Grove.” Over the years, he was recorded not only singing and playing guitar, but also on banjo, harmonica, and one instance mandolin. In the early days before his son Merle was able to tour with him; Doc preferred the company of folks who made him comfortable away from home. Two of those early travelers are present here for a couple of songs, Fred Price and Clint Howard on “Lee Highway Blues” and “Daniel Prayed.” These songs were taken from Pete Seeger’s Rainbow Quest television show in the 1960s. Merle is featured on a lot of the material and, later, he and Doc are joined by Jack Lawrence on guitar and T. Michael Coleman on bass. Grandson Richard appears near the end of the video.
At a hundred minutes long, there are more than thirty performances ranging through all phases of his career. We get a taste of his Rockabilly, his blues, and his bluegrass. The bluegrass songs feature an all-star cast including Mark O’Connor, Béla Fleck, Tim O’Brien, and Tony Rice, to name a few. The music on this DVD is superb throughout, and Doc is always encouraging and engaging to his fellow pickers. Some of the scenes are filmed in a setting with children singing along on some of the songs. If you are looking for an overview of Doc’s amazing career, this is a good sampling of a life made in music. (Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop, P.O. Box 802, Sparta, NJ 07871, www.guitarvideos.com.)RCB