John Scott's Staff Pick: October 22, 2022

What’s up Sorry State readers, I hope everyone has been enjoying their October. This past week, me and Dominic have enjoyed listening to a lot of country and bluegrass (even more than the normal amount for us), Dom even did an awesome two hour show on The Face Radio playing all country and I heard a lot of great tracks I’d never heard before, so I recommend checking it out if that sounds like it could be up your alley. Today I’d like to talk about a record I scored a couple weeks ago, Doc and Merle Watson - Live and Pickin’, a live album recorded by the father and son duo. Actually, as I’m writing this on October 13th, I just looked at the date on the back of the cover and noticed it was recorded on October 11th - 13th, 1978. Sometimes things just work out. Doc Watson was born in 1923 in Deep Gap, North Carolina, a small unincorporated community up in the mountains in Watauga County. Before his second birthday, an eye infection caused him to lose his vision. When he was old enough to go to school, he started attending the Governor Morehead School For The Blind right here in Raleigh, located just a few minutes from us here at Sorry State. The story of how Doc got his first guitar is about as classic as it gets. His dad told him if he and his brother cut down the dead chestnut trees lining their field, he could sell the wood to a local tannery. With the money he earned from this, Doc bought his first guitar, a Sears Silvertone. He was a natural talent and could often be found on local street corners playing songs and singing. In 1949, he and his wife welcomed their first son, Merle. By 1953, he was a part of a country and Western swing band playing electric guitar. The band lacked a fiddle player, so Doc taught himself to play fiddle tunes on his electric guitar. He then started playing acoustic guitar and eventually, in 1960, began playing acoustic and banjo exclusively. In 1964, he released his first solo album and started touring with his son, Merle. By 1974, Doc, Merle, and T. Michael Coleman started touring globally as a trio and recorded nearly 15 albums between then and 1985. Unfortunately, the same year, Merle Watson passed away in a tractor accident on their family farm. In 1988, MerleFest, an annual music festival held in Wilkesboro, NC, was founded in honor of Doc’s late son and still continues to attract lovers of folk and bluegrass music to this day, drawing in 70,000 fans annually to the festival. Doc continued to tour and perform up until he passed away in 2012. With all that being said, that finally brings me to the album I picked out today. I just wanted to give a little history on the duo behind the record. This is a great live album with some fun banter in between tracks, like after the second track, a great cover of Milk Cow Blues, someone in the crowd starts hootin and hollerin, which is greeted with a “I remember my first beer too buddy” from Doc. I really like the first track too, Dig a Little Deeper In The Well. Sometimes when the going gets tough, you just gotta dig a little deeper in the well and keep going till you reach that cool, fresh water. My favorite song on here though is probably the fourth track, Memories Of You Dear. I love a good sad bluegrass song that still somehow sounds upbeat. Doc and Merle Watson are true North Carolina legends in every sense of the word and the spirit of their music still continues on today with artists like Billy Strings performing ripping covers of their songs. If you’re from North Carolina and never given this music a real listen, I recommend you give it a try. When I’m listening to some Doc on my walks around town, it’s cool to think he was probably pickin’ and singing a lot of these songs in the very same places I’m walking. In the words of Billy Strings often said after he performs a cover of one of his tracks “Thank You Doc Watson”.

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