Doc Watson

(SHCD #3836)

Sugar Hill Records
P.O. Box 55300
Durham, N.C. 27717-5300

A review for the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange
by Jim Lewis (

Will Doc Watson's new album, "Docabilly, end up being my all-time fav? No. But will I listen to it from time to time? Sure. Doc plays the guitar. And anytime Doc plays the guitar, I'll listen.

What we have here, is Doc singing some unlikely numbers--for Doc. We're used to hearing him do the traditional, or old time numbers -- like "Cripple Creek," or songs like "Willie Moore." Doc's "Darlin' Cory" is, perhaps, my all-time favorite version of this chestnut. If you haven't heard it, get hold of the old Folkways 2356, The Watson Family.

What we have on "Docabilly," is pure rock-a-billy, if NOT pure Doc: songs the likes of "Shake, Rattle and Roll," Heartbreak Hotel," "Walking After Midnight," and "Little Things Mean A Lot." Doc attempts to recapture a period on music history when rock and roll drew some of its first breaths emerging from the womb of country music. He's accompanied by a varied ensemble of annoying guitars mandolins, pianos, and acoustic and electric basses.

The result is frequently very un-Doc Watson like. Occasionally--as in "My Special Angel," "Little Things," and "Heartbreak Hotel"--you wish he'd never made the attempt. Then there's "Walking After Midnight," and "Singing the Blues" which, strangely, seem almost made for him.

I found the accompaniments especially distracting. If the producers had allowed Doc to play his own very special guitar, this album would be 80 percent improved.

For those of us old enough to remember the original versions of most of these songs, some of the strangeness of this album, of course, is that we remember the originals -- sung "like they oughta be sung." But then, in numbers like "Shake Rattle and Roll" and "Singing the Blues" Doc needn't step aside for anyone. But -- sorry Doc -- only one person can do justice to "Heartbreak Hotel."

It's not certain whether this was sincere tribute to an important yet obscure musical form, or just an attempt to be cleaver. Either way, Docabilly just didn't quite make it.

Copyright 1995, Three Rivers Folklife Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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