Folk and bluegrass legends meet live on-stage on Rounder's bright and entertaining Three Pickers. The titular "pickers" are bluegrass banjo innovator Earl Scruggs, guitarist and folk purist Doc Watson, and relative newcomer (with only 45 years of musical experience under his belt) Ricky Skaggs on mandolin and guitar; they work most often as a trio but also perform with a wide variety of combos that were lucky enough to be invited on-stage. Recorded in Winston Salem, NC, in December 2002, the album reflects an honest interplay between the three main performers and the audience that seems lost in most concert experiences, and despite their age, Watson can still sing and Scruggs can still pick nearly as well as they did in their prime. Guest vocals and fiddle from the ubiquitous Alison Krauss liven up "The Storms Are on the Ocean" and the "one-sided prenuptial agreement" murder ballad "On the Banks of the Ohio," while Skaggs and his Kentucky Thunder inject some youthful exuberance into the evening during their set. The songs performed by "Earl Scruggs With Family and Friends" get a little loose around the edges, but the sweet and lowdown duo of Watson and his grandson Richard more than make up for it with their warm intimacy. All in all, it seems as though this was a spectacular exhibition of authentic folk music live on-stage, and the album lets that genuine honesty and warmth shine through perfectly.
AllMusic Review by Zac Johnson