Watson Family “Milestones”

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See Kickstarter description about the Watson Family’s “Milestones” box set here.

from Jody Stecher:

“Milestones” is the most moving and stirring collection of recorded music I have heard in a decade. I co-wrote the liner notes with Roy. “Milestones” is a book of Watson Family photo collages, assembled with scissors and glue over a 10 year period by Doc Watson’s daughter Nancy. And it’s four CDs of music.

The recordings are extraordinary musically but also historically as they comprise a major document of a local musical tradition that was made from within the tradition itself. Some of the music was recorded by Nancy as a girl. Her familiarity to the musicians she recorded gave her access to a side of the singers and players that a folklorist or “collector” from “outside” would be unlikely to ever see or hear.  This includes gentle loving renditions of beautiful traditional songs and tunes by her grandfather Gaither Carlton, sacred songs recorded at home prayer meetings and at Mount Paran Church, and recordings of her parents, together and separately.

There is no aspect of “performance” in these extraordinary recordings, no embodying of what the collector recordist might be perceived to be expecting. This is the Real Deal. And it’s way better than parodies and self-parodies.  Other recordings were made by Doc Watson on good quality home equipment and some of this is multi-tracked so we get to hear a Band-o-Docs.  These were done mostly in the 1950s and they present a truer picture of Doc Watson as complete musician rather than the recordings that were aimed at the folk revival of the 1960s.

Some of these recordings were done entirely on a Les Paul electric guitar and an electric bass, both played by Doc. Where else will you find “Groundhog” and “Stardust” on the same recording, sung and played by the same artist, and both done entirely credibly to say the least?  Other bands-o-docs are of vocal, banjo and harmonica.  There are also studio recordings by Doc done at Rich-R-Tone studios in Johnson City, Tennessee. That’s where the Stanley Brothers first recorded.

There are some great songs sung by Rosa Lee Watson and some written by her too. And some songs written by Doc. Both are great writers and singers. Other highlights are recordings of other family members. Doc’s mother, his brothers, his cousins, all make memorable music. There is even a banjo duet by Willard Watson and Doc Watson which I have listened to dozens of times and still hear new things each time.

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