Rather, a Watson performance seems to capture whole a very old way of making music and being a musician. Blind since childhood in Deep Gap, North Carolina, Watson learned to play music on a homemade banjo given him by his father. He played for tips on street corners for a time. On stage Watson is a griot-like figure a storyteller who carries centuries of cultural memory. His songbag ranges from medieval England to the present day, and his concerts, never the same twice, carry wisdom on top of beauty.
Watson is an icon of the 1960s rediscovery of folk music, and his popularity has never waned since he appeared at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963. I wish the State Department had sent him out on one of those goodwill tours meant to show the world the best of American culture. True, there have been previous warnings of a "last chance" to see the seemingly indestructible Doc Watson. But the man's nearly eighty. Don't miss this one.
[Originally published in January, 2002.]
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