After stints on Folkways and Vanguard Records in the '60s and early '70s, Doc Watson contracted with the independent Poppy label, which earned a distribution deal with United Artists (UA) in the wake of the success of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's 1972 UA album Will the Circle Be Unbroken, on which Watson appeared. Having released Elementary Doctor Watson! on Poppy in 1972, followed by Then and Now in 1973 and Two Days in November in 1974 (all of these albums actually co-credited to Doc & Merle Watson), he next issued the double-LP Memories directly on UA in 1975, following with 1976's Doc and the Boys and then three more Doc & Merle albums, 1977's Lonesome Road, 1978's Look Away!, and 1979's Live and Pickin'. Four of those eight albums made the country charts, and one, Memories, even made the pop charts, but that was the end of Watson's sojourn with a large national label; by 1981, he was back to recording for the small folkie independent Flying Fish. This 49-minute, 17-track compilation draws on the Poppy/UA catalog, long since acquired by Capitol Records. Just as Watson's pact with UA was a response to the success of the traditional Will the Circle Be Unbroken, this release, part of a series of Capitol country and bluegrass compilations, is a response to the success of the traditional O Brother, Where Art Thou? Fine, if that's what it takes. The team of Watson, father and son, is in fine form on these recordings, which include covers of material by Mississippi John Hurt, Jimmie Rodgers, and others, plus traditional tunes. "Big Sandy/Leather Britches" was a deserving recipient of the 1979 Grammy Award for best country instrumental performance. The recording quality is high and the performances are stellar, making this an excellent sampler of Watson's music.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann