Black Mountain Rag is drawn from Doc and Merle Watson's three early-'80s albums for Flying Fish Records (1981's Red Rocking Chair, 1983's Doc & Merle Watson's Guitar Album, and Watson Country, which in turn was a sort of a best-of the Flying Fish years), and what is immediately striking about this compilation is how varied it is, even as it settles nicely into familiar "Watson country." Doc Watson is incapable of ever making a bad album, given his warm, easy singing style (Watson's vocals sound eerily like Jack Teagarden's, if Teagarden had been born in North Carolina instead of Texas and had played guitar instead of trombone and had devoted his career to traditional music instead of jazz) and his simply stunning acoustic guitar playing, but here he shows how at home he and Merle are with not only traditional folk fare ("Red Rocking Chair," "Mole in the Ground") but also Western swing ("Smoke, Smoke, Smoke"), organic bluegrass ("Blackberry Blossom"), fiddle tunes reconfigured for guitar ("Fisher's Hornpipe/Devil's Dream"), straight jazz (the Gershwins' "Liza/Lady Be Good") and even a hybrid that might be termed Appalachian jazz (the striking "Below Freezing," which features clarinet lines from Tom Scott). A young Mark O'Connor plays fiddle on several tracks here, and Byron Berline takes a turn at the fiddle for "Down Yonder." There's also a 1990 trio recording ("Blackberry Blossom") featuring Doc with Norman Blake and Tony Rice, which is here as a sort of bonus track. Again, there's no such thing as a bad Doc Watson album, and this one, like all the others, shows why he's a true national treasure.
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AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett