Doc Watson

Trouble in Mind: Doc Watson Country Blues Collection

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Trouble in Mind makes an interesting argument: Doc Watson, long deified in bluegrass and traditional folk circles, is also a fine country blues player. Perhaps the misunderstanding comes from the long tradition of dividing blues and folk players into different genres, or the mistaken assumption that black musicians (who often played the blues) didn't influence white musicians (who usually played folk). Watson, as this collection shows, included pieces like "Country Blues" at the very beginning of his career in 1964. For the next 34 years he repeatedly returned to the blues well, drawing on favorites like "Worried Blues," "Never No More Blues," and "Memphis Blues." Watson's eclectic approach uses a variety of instruments to render these traditional and public domain pieces fresh. On "Rain Crow Bill" he plays solo harmonica; on "White House Blues" he plays banjo. Most of the arrangements are simple, often augmented by his son Merle Watson on a second guitar or banjo. Another reason that many have never identified Watson as a blues player also has something to do with his guitar style. His fingerpicking method has more in common with the Piedmont style of John Hurt than the more familiar Delta style of Robert Johnson. The less-bluesy Piedmont style, in fact, seems much closer to folk. Trouble in Mind makes a convincing argument for Watson's ability as a purveyor of the blues. In its fine selection of songs and well-executed performances, though, the collection is no different than other Watson collections: good music, regardless of genre, is good music.

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