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Family's history is our musical history

Remembering Merle
Remembering Merle
By Doc & Merle Watson

Sugar Hill Records: 1992

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This review first appeared in the April 10, 1992 edition of the North County Blade-Citizen (now North County Times).

The Watson family has long been a veritable living museum of American music, covering bluegrass, blues, folk and gospel. This set of live concerts from the early '70s, featuring the playing of Doc Watson's late son, Merle, in performance with Doc, is as much an album of America's musical heritage as it is a family history.

The material presented here ranges from the traditional "Frankie & Johnny" through the sophistication of the Gershwin standard "Summertime" to the rockabilly of Carl Perkins' "Blue Suede Shoes."

While Merle never gained the fame of his father, he was musically his equal. Playing both banjo and guitar on the selections here, he is as comfortable on bluegrass banjo picking as on blues slide guitar and five-finger guitar picking.

This tribute to Merle Watson, covering as it does a recent portion of the Watson family's performance history, makes a fine complement to the Smithsonian/Folkways collection, "The Doc Watson Family," taken from sessions recorded in the early '60s when Doc was still a young man (and Merle not yet playing professionally).