At Gerdes Folk City
Review by Steven Stone
Click here to e-mail reviewer
CD Stock Number: Sugar Hill Records SUG-CD-3934
Imagine young Athel "Doc" Watson taking his first solo long bus ride up from Tennessee and stepping off a Greyhound bus into the teeming clamor of NYC's port authority bus terminal. This blind Southern guitarist arrived in Manhattan to play a four-week solo gig at a place called Gerde's Folk City. It was his first Northern gig, not counting the concert he played with his father-in-law Gaither Carlton, and brother Arnold Watson at NYU in October 1962. It was also the first time most of his audience had ever heard the guitar style called
Peter K. Seigel, a young folk enthusiast, recorded Doc's shows at Gerdes, and now with the assistance of Henry Street Folklore Productions, has made available a CD of this early live performance. Unlike most early recordings, the quality of these tapes is remarkably good. Doc's strong voice and trailblazing guitar are captured with excellent fidelity. You can even tell that Doc was using a mid 50's Gibson J-45. Not only does this CD capture Docs flatpicking as showcased here on "Little Sadie", but it also displays his fingerpicking finesse is on "Cannonball Rag" and "Blue Smoke", his mandolin mastery on "Liberty", and his banjo bionics on "The Wagoner's Lad". This live performance leaves little doubt that in 1962 Doc Watson had few, if any, technical peers. Only Norman Blake comes to mind.
Many "historical" recordings are noteworthy primarily for their archival rather than musical value. Doc Watson
At Gerdes Folk City is different. Here the music is as fresh and engaging as it was over 38 years ago. I've always felt that Doc Watson is a guitar God. This CD proves it.
Sound Quality: 80