Some people think I must know a shitload about music because I’ve bragged about having 25,000 records, and have been a DJ and music writer for 25 years (I started young), and I AM pretty undeniably bitchin’ and whatnot.
But this is how stupid I can be: I didn’t realize that Doc Watson, Deep Gap, North Carolina’s favorite son, is perhaps the greatest white bluesman ever until I heard what is unquestionably the best blues record released this year – Trouble In Mind: The Doc Watson Blues Collection, 1964-1998. It’s just astonishing.
Anyone who cares knows of Watson’s encyclopedic blending of country, folk, bluegrass, and gospel is THE embodiment of Americana. Not only does Trouble prove Watson a great white bluesman, it places him firmly in the company of the greatest country bluesman, period: Mississippi John Hurt, Reverend Gary Davis, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Big Bill Broozy – stand up for Doc.
You might think Doc’s bluegrass-based guitar and banjo styles would yield a blues sans swing, sans bluesy groove – you would be wrong. Only “Little Sadie” and “White House Blues” feel like bluesgrass renditions of blues songs.
“Sitting On Top of the World” couldn’t be deeper in the pocket, “Country Blues” and “Georgie Buck” prove the banjo was MADE for the blues – those flatted fifths just come tumbling out of Doc’s magical fingers; the Delmore Brothers’ “Gambler’s Yodel” (supported by son Merle Watson on guitar and Eric Weissberg on bass) and Jimmie Rogers’ “Anniversary (Blue Yodel #7)” remind us how poor black country blues and poor white bluegrass emerged from similar musical and identical social impulses.
Doc rocks a mean blues harmonica on “Rain Crow Bill,” and wails most soulfully on “My Little Woman So Sweet” backed by his own orchestral 12-string guitar. Another highlight is a great live recording of “Deep River Blues” (with Merle).
You want to know how soulful an aging, white blind man can be? Listen and know. You can also see Doc live all summer long – some upcoming dates:
Artist Date City State Event
Doc Watson 05/31 Roxboro, NC Kirby Civic Auditorium
Doc Watson 06/20 Greenville, SC Handlebar
Doc Watson 06/21 Cherokee, NC NC State Bluegrass
Doc Watson 06/29 Ann Arbor, MI Ann Arbor Summer Festival
Doc Watson 07/11 Boone, NC Doc Watson Appreciation Day
Doc Watson 07/12 Boone, NC Doc Watson Appreciation Day
Doc Watson 07/19 Charleston, WV Clay Center For the Arts and Sciences
Doc Watson 07/25 Alexandria, VA Birchmere
Doc Watson 07/26 Gambrills, MD Horizon Organic Acoustic
Doc Watson 07/27 Lexington, VA Theater at Lime Kiln
Avail yourself of the opportunity if you get the chance.