Monday, May 27, 2013

Doc Watson - Milestones

This Spring Kickstarter had a project to help produce a set of previously unreleased recordings by Doc Watson - there are a total of 92 songs in the set.  They are a very interesting mix of family recordings and material that had not been on any other albums.   The project also includes a book put together by Doc's daughter, Nancy, which includes a lot of family photographs.   It is a unique history of Watson's career.   You can get it using the Amazon Paypal system for $65.

Doc Watson was a unique performer.   As I think I have covered previously, I saw him many times when I was a more serious amateur bluegrass musician at the Ash Grove in LA, which at the time offered a wide range of country and folk performers.  

I also met him at the UCLA Folk Festival in 1963.  He was having lunch  and I had the chance to sit down and talk with him for some time.   Watson was a versatile guitar player (this set demonstrates the wide range of music that he played) but he was also a great banjo player.   One thing I learned from him was how to get a drop thumb effect without actually being able to do drop thumb.   There are three kinds of basic banjo styles - three finger picking (often called Scruggs picking), double thumbing (a style that uses only thumb and forefinger) and frailing (or up picking) - within frailing there is a style that some old time players use where the thumb drops down from plucking the fifth string to plucking the middle strings.   Below is a short video on how the two styles are different.  

Watson, at one point said he could not get the style (and I could not either) and he suggested an alternative way to get the same effect without doing that style.   He had a very simple cheat which achieved the same effect.

What impressed me most about Doc Watson was his humanity - this set of four disks and the books - shows off that quality very clearly.  If you have heard Doc, this is probably a must.   If you have not click into one of the sites above and then order the set.

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