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A whopping 43 tracks across two CDs, ‘The Bottom Line Archive’ series of releases has unearthed a couple of Doc Watson shows from the New York venue. According to the blurb, Watson performed at the club on more than thirty occasions, with this particular set of recordings taken from two 2002 appearances - one on 28th March and the other on 31st August. 79 years of age at the time, before he died ten years later, just who was Doc Watson?

Nicely written, eulogistic liner notes by Gregg Bendian, producer of the Bottom Line Archive, talk about Watson as having “straight from the heart sincerity”; “quality and authenticity”; “along with a sweetly endearing and strikingly humble stage presence.” I’m intrigued by Bendian’s sentimental lauding, who continues to claim that, “It’s impossible to overstate the importance of Doc Watson’s contributions to the development and preservation of that uniquely American art form, alternately known as “folk”, “old time”, or “country”.” Ah, okay, the name’s ringing more of a prominent bell now. Country, I run a mile from; probably the one genre with which I’ve felt very little affinity over the years. As much as I dabble in roots music and love a good old dose of well-crafted Americana, I’ve been content to largely eschew straight down the line country. But, as always, I’ll keep an open mind for the listening experience…

With the shows featuring just a trio of musicians, with guitarists Jack Lawrence and Richard Eddy Watson (Doc’s grandson) appearing alongside the man himself, it’s all very much a stripped down, no-frills, guitar/vocal centric affair. There’s some decent widdle and picking across the three guitars; Doc’s voice has a great old wise storytelling quality, both in his spoken preambles and with his singing; and the compositions are precisely what I’d been primed to believe they’d sound like from the blurb. It might just be my untrained ear for the genre, but I have to be brutally honest here - it all starts sounding excruciatingly samey after a while, and all-too twee. I’m not the intended audience for this, though, and I’m sure Doc Watson fans will find much to enjoy in the release, which has a generally great sound throughout. For that reason, my score reflects what I perceive to be the release’s relative merits, rather than my own disconnection from the music.
Store for Music
Review by Mark Holmes
13th December 2019
DISC ONE: 21 tracks
DISC TWO: 22 tracks
"...Doc’s voice has a great old wise storytelling quality, both in his spoken preambles and with his singing..."