New album of Doc Watson live recordings

Over the years Doc Watson has inspired countless people to pick up the guitar and learn to flatpick the old melodies of the Appalachians.  A continuing influence on music in America and beyond, a new release of some old recordings of Doc alongside his fiddling father-in-law, Gaither Carlton, has been scheduled for the end of May by Smithsonian Folkways.

Recorded in 1962 in New York, one concert at the NYU School of Education and the other at Blind Lemon’s (a folk club in the West Village that was gone the next week), most of these tracks have never been released before.  They “capture two masters at the height of their power, revelling in an audience that was there to listen, not just to drink and dance. It’s a moment where the rural Appalachian world of North Carolina came face to face with the urban New York world of young people desperate to learn folk music and to learn more about the Southern traditions they’d been discovering. These recordings show two very different worlds coming together, buoyed by Watson’s charming personality and his willingness to teach all who would learn.” 

The music captured on these recordings is not the powerhouse virtuosic guitar style Doc Watson would later be known for (he actually plays banjo on half the tracks).  As Peter Siegel, who recorded both concerts says: “This is family music with intricate interweaving of fiddle and guitar, or fiddle and banjo.  This is the music that Doc and Gaither had been playing at home for the last 20 years. On this record you can hear the older stuff, you can hear flashes of brilliant guitar playing, but that’s not what the album is about.  These recordings were made at a particular time in Doc’s career when he’s just figuring out that people like to hear this old-time music. He couldn’t get arrested with this music in his hometown. If you listen to parts of this album, you can hear his surprise and happiness that the audience is responding in such a way. He’s clearly having a real good time.”