A retrospective of an old-time/bluegrass master.
My best moments mostly come with a musical soundtrack. One such memory is an evening more than a decade ago: a treasured few hours spent with my younger daughter up in Jacksonville, Ore., at a Britt Festival concert. Gillian Welch opened for Doc Watson, who was accompanied by his son Merle. It was a balmy night, my own grown-up kid was at my side, and a truly legendary performer was singing and playing, doing tunes that tapped deep into the American past, linking us with times long gone, further bonding me with my child, hooking her up to a rich musical tradition she will revere after her old man has slipped this mortal coil. Doc Watson has since left this earthly sphere, but he bequeathed to us a legacy of great music. A chunk of that legacy is gathered in this two-CD roundup of 34 of his best recordings, from “Willie Moore” to “Sitting on Top of the World” to “Whiskey Before Breakfast.” As I savored these songs, my memory redrew memories of Doc playing live: a blind man picking a guitar with utter assurance, and singing with authenticity—a warm and genuinely folksy master of his genre doing what he’d done his whole life. Damn, it was good. So’s this album.