At the age of 82, Doc Watson only accepts a limited number of engagements. The Stadium Center for Performing arts in Woonsocket RI was privileged to host an evening with Doc, David Holt and Doc's grandson, Richard Watson. Not only are Doc's engagement's limited, it was an especially rare treat to have his grandson Richard on stage with him. Richard rarely tours outside of the local NC area. It was a chance in a lifetime for Rhode Islanders to hear a master performer in an intimate venue like the Stadium Theater.
The legendary Doc Watson represents all that is American Traditional Roots Music. His baritone voice was in perfect form with amazing clarity and tone. Throughout the performance he was relaxed and spoke to his audience as if he were entertaining friends in his living room. Yet, he is a American tradition that has been emulated and studied by many a guitarist.
Typical for Doc, the evening set was an eclectic mix of old-time mountain songs, traditional folk, elements of jazz, blues, and bluegrass. Doc is renowned for playing traditional mountain fiddle tunes on his flat-pick guitar, a technique that few have mastered.
The first half of the concert mirrored the 3rd disk of his Legacy CD released in April, 2002. Legacy was recorded during a live performance in Asheville, NC. Like the Asheville concert and the CD, Doc frequently fell into reminiscing about his lifelong love affair with music. David Holt played the role of an overly enthusiastic interviewer to draw out Doc's life stories. While Doc chatted on easily about events in his life, David Holt's introductions and prompts seemed all too rehearsed.
Doc spoke of his dad teaching him how to play harmonica (the first instrument Doc mastered) and illustrated the progression of that process through playing a tune. Through the dialog process, we learned his first banjo was made by his dad from the bladder of the deceased family pet cat. He reminisced over listening to the tunes played on the old victrola and how his father challenged him to learn and play one tune on a borrowed guitar by the end of the day to earn his first guitar.
Highlights during the first set included Railroad Bill, Walk-on, The Telephone Girl and Stand By Me. We were also treated to a fantastic Hambone performance by David Holt who followed it up immediately with a percussion display of hand slapping.
After a short intermission, Doc returned to the stage and performed 4 or 5 solo traditional mountain folk tunes after which Richard joined his grandfather on stage. The two generation duo, launched into a fine set of traditional blues and gospel tunes from their Third Generation Blues CD. Some of the more memorable tunes from this set were the Columbus Stockade Blues, Summertime, and Train Whistle Blues. Richard demonstrated a natural talent for playing blues guitar. His gutsy blues complimented Doc's flat pick style and rustic vocals quite well. Stylistically, Richard leans more toward a contemporary interpretation of the music. Yet, somehow it works perfectly against Doc's more traditional blend. Clearly, Richard carries on the legacy started by Doc and was lost when Richard's father, Merle, tragically died.
As the concert wound up, David Holt rejoined Richard and Doc on stage to deliver three wonderful gospel tunes; a perfect wrap-up to a chance of a lifetime concert event.