Live Last Night: Doc Watson

Renowned guitar picker Doc Watson is so closely associated with traditional folk and string-band music that it's easy to overlook the years he spent playing a Les Paul axe in a rock-and-roll band. He recalled that career episode at the Birchmere last night night, albeit while playing an acoustic flat-top guitar in a trio setting. After affectionately evoking Elvis Presley's syllable-slurring Southern warble on "Love Me," Watson romped through a spirited medley saluting Carl Perkins, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. Fun stuff.

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

At 86, Watson may not get around much anymore, at least tour-wise; but his fingers certainly do. He set "Deep River Blues" into a Merle Travis-inspired motion with pinched notes and an alternating bass pattern, and he used a flatpick to scurry through a series of seminal country and bluegrass favorites. Featuring a pair of hour-long sets, the show was as relaxed as a back-porch pickin' party, punctuated with family anecdotes and laced with songs associated with Jimmie Rodgers, Flatt and Scruggs, Eddy Arnold, George Gershwin and, oddly enough, the Moody Blues.

Watson lost track of the lyrics now and then, but it hardly mattered. His weathered and often soulfully yearning voice made up for the occasional lapses, as did the dovetailing guitar parts he fashioned with either Richard Watson, his grandson, or frequent collaborator Jack Lawrence. Exceptionally fluid flat-pickers, the younger Watson and Lawrence took turns playing onstage, contributing to a series of rooted but never rigid trio arrangements deftly anchored by electric bass guitarist T. Michael Coleman.

-- MIKE JOYCE

By J. Freedom du Lac |  March 19, 2009; 11:20 AM ET Live Last Night
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