This music takes me back to another time and place when life was simpler, or at least in retrospect appears to have been, and country music was still considered to be folk or hillbilly music. It takes me back to evenings listening with my parents to radio broadcasts like the WWVA Jamboree from Wheeling, West Virginia, and Nashville's Grand Ol' Opry or watching my father play and sing country music and call square dances in some great barn in Southern Alberta. This is music that brings back the old times.
Doc Watson, who is only two years younger than my father, has been playing and singing longer than many musicians have been on this earth. During that time, he has influenced the playing and singing of many of the musicians who followed. His incomparable flat-pick guitar playing impressed many young guitarists to play lead acoustic guitar with a flat-pick. While outside folk and old-time country music circles Doc Watson has not achieved the wide audience recognition of a Pete Seeger or Woody Guthrie, he is one of the important artists of the last century in American folk music.
The 20 tracks on this CD (actually 24 songs if you count the medleys) bring the listener an excellent selection of Watson's playing and singing. Ably supported by his son Merle and a dozen or so other musicians who appear on various tracks, Watson presents a potpourri of traditional folk songs interspersed with some countrified pop and jazz standards. While the music seems overall quiet and unintrusive, often from across the room a phrase or refrain would suddenly grab my attention and draw me away from whatever I had been doing at the time. What drew my attention was both the familiarity of what I was hearing and the excellence with which it was being performed.
Watson is known primarily for his work as a guitarist and this is where his main influence on younger musicians has been. Less recognized is his vocal style. Watson sings in a warm, dry baritone that brings to his words a veracity that makes him particularly effective as a teller of stories in song. It's always a pleasure to hear Watson sing a song, as he does on seven of these tracks.