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December 15, 2008

Doc & Merle Watson's Guitar Album

And now for something from that other family of 3 generations of guitar wizards: The Watsons. Not quite so world-famous, not so many compositions dedicated to them, but I would argue they have played an equally important role in the evolution of the guitar in the 20th century.

I've talked about the incredible instrumental genius and warm character of Doc Watson before. He never missed a note, and he never played one where one wasn't needed. He turned a generation of folk musicians and guitar players on their heads and took all their praise and imitation in stride. He had no secrets: if you wanted to know how he played a lick or a song, well he'd sit down right there and show you (but you'd better be quick, because he didn't repeat himself, even to his own backup musicians).

His son, Eddy Merle Watson was just as good, but largely unrecognized. Perhaps because his style wasn't as uniqely original as docs (it was sort of a country-boogie-blues fingerpicking with one foot in the waters of the Mississippi delta and the other in the fires of southern rock). Listen to Talking to Casey and you'll realize he belongs among the great slide-guitarists. Or perhaps ne never became famous because he just plain didn't care to be. He was quite content to sit in the background and let his father bask blindly in the spotlight. He held no resentment, that's just the way he liked it.

Tragically, Merle died around the time I was born, whilst joy-riding a tractor on the family farm. But before he departed this world, he gave us the latent gift of his son, Richard Watson who has grown up to be a fine guitarist in his own right. Any recording with Doc & Merle is a treasure, for it captures the same sort of united father-son dynamic that the Romeros have.

On this album, they're joined by the always-welcome fiddler extrordinaire Mark O'Connor, the sometimes-too-loud bassist T. Michael Coleman, and a completely unneccesary drummer. And on one track, they're accosted by jingly chime sounds, no doubt due to the nefarious producer falling asleep at his station.

The tracks are mostly instrumental, and span a wide stylistic field, from hard-driving bluegrass-rock to swanky jazz ditties to soundscapes of Americana (they rearrange Take Me Out to the Ball game in much the same way that John Fahey rearranged hymns and Christmas songs).

As bass-player T. Michael Coleman says, "The tunefulness and ensemble of these two are just marvelous, and the album is recorded in excellent sound, clear and never strident. The superb fiddling of Mark O'Connor is the icing on the cake. No fan of great guitar playing should be without this album. "

And the Allmusic Guide has this to say:
"Like Pickin' the Blues, Guitar Album features Doc and Merle Watson supported by a small band and playing blues. Both guitarists play with deft, nimble grace, spinning out surprisingly hard-edged lines that are simultaneously fluid and gritty."

This album is the first of several contributions by IncaRoads, a generous blog-reader.

Doc & Merle Watson's Guitar Album
Label: Flying Fish
Year: 1972
take me out.
mp3 320kbps | w/ cover | 76mb

thanks IncaRoads!


Andrew52 said...

A beautiful post Pirate. I've learnt so much from your blog I can't thank you enough. May the wind always fill your sails.

J. Scott Moore said...

This one looks good, I'll try it. I always have liked Doc a little extra when Merle was playing along.
Thank you!

Anonymous said...

All Aboard!!! (laughing) I've been spending the night salvaging through the wreck of the Broken Down Engine. I picked some real gems as many as these old arms could carry out. I never knew looting could be so fun. What? How? No, this is impossible say it can't be true. It's been derailed. (laughing evilly) I found a way. I'm afraid to post how. Because if eyes are watching which I'm sure then the gig it is up. So, why even mention it because anything is possible. If a nitwit like me could figure it out. Think about it. Anyways, great post.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing the great music. May all your glasses be full and all your plates washed.
--dcat in the cornpatch

Anonymous said...

Lovely stuff Pirate, thanx-a-million, looks like your due an up to date acknowledgement!