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Doc & Merle - A Documentary

  • Artist: Doc & Merle Watson Publisher: Vestapol Add to Wish List
    Hard Copy   $24.95  Item Number:  Vestapol 13044

    Doc & Merle - A Documentary

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    "Watching this video makes you feel like you're Doc Watson's neighbor just down the holler, his longtime friend. The music is simply wonderful, but the best thing is the intimacy, the closeups, both physically and emotionally."  – Winston-Salem Journal

    Doc & Merle reaches deep into the relationship between Doc and Merle Watson. It gives an historical overview of their evolution as musicians and explores the special bond between them and the North Carolina mountains they call home. It presents an entertaining and enlightening look at their lives and their music. During their 21-year career, the Watsons' mastery of guitar and their unique blend of traditional, bluegrass, country and western, blues and gospel music won them an international audience and numerous awards.

    This documentary is a rich mixture of music, informal interviews, old photographs and rare film footage. The wide range of musical influences the Watsons' embraced is clearly shown through concert footage and less formal at-home picking sessions.

    Sixteen songs are presented ranging from Black Mountain Rag and Wabash Cannonball to Blue Suede Shoes and Freight Train Blues. Doc is reunited musically with Jack Williams, his partner from the early 1950s, for a rare rockabilly performance of Step It Up And Go. He also performs with Clint Howard and Fred Price playing Fire On The Mountain and Daniel Prayed and with his wife Rosa Lee for a moving rendition of Wandering Boy.

    This DVD is dedicated to the memory of Merle Watson who died in a tractor accident on October 23rd, 1985. 

    Bonus Material: The TV show Homewood filmed in Los Angeles, California in 1970, featuring Doc and Merle performing: Hold the Woodpile Down, Shady Grove, Peach Picking Time In Georgia, Black Mountain Rag, Stagolee, Tom Dooley, Southbound, I Don’t Love Nobody

    Running Time: 85 minutes

    Review: This documentary film is a guitarist's dream come true. Not only does it tell the story of Doc Watson, but it's filled with long, thoughtful sequences of him and Merle playing, both in concerts and casual home ensembles. There's enough in the hour-long film to satisfy a hunger for Doc's music - as well as to learn a few things, besides. And not only does Doc play his guitar, but the film shows once again what an amazing all-round musician he was, from his speed-blurred flatpicking to equally virtuosic Travis picking, banjo playing, singing, and harmonica blowing.

    Along the way, the film also tells Doc's tale. The most touching is his early epiphany that, since he was blind, playing music was the sole way for him to take care of his wife Rosa Lee and their children. He began as a “professional” musician busking on street corners, then playing in groups, before being discovered and lionized by the folk music boom of the early '60s.

    The film features Doc's old-time North Carolina music in spades. But it also shows him playing the other music he grew up with - rockabilly. There are several vintage images of Doc playing a goldtop Les Paul through various Fender tweed amps in an early rock and roll group. Reunited with that band's pianist, Jack Williams, they romp through a rollicking “Step It Up And Go” and later on, Doc plays a sizzling, swinging medley leading off with “Blue Suede Shoes.”

    The prime moment, though, may be Williams' insight into playing with Watson: “You'd never hear that boy make a mistake on that guitar. But I could always tell when he'd made one, because he'd throw in about a dozen and a half notes covering it up - and I mean they'd come in there just as slick as a button. People who weren't listening and didn't know what he was doing, didn't know what he was doing. But I did.”

    This DVD reissues the original 1986 film, plus a bonus of a 1970 “Homewood” TV concert of Doc and Merle. – MD/Vintage Guitar Magazine 

    Review: Wonderful documentary on this folk music legend (and his son): Guitar player Stefan Grossman has been releasing videos (first on VHS, and now on DVD) for many years on his Vestapol label. To date most fall in one of two categories: Instructional videos (which do include full performances of songs between the lessons) and performance videos (for the non-musician). To my knowledge this is the first documentary he has released. And, as far as I can see - from research - this is the first time that this 1986 documentary directed by Kevin Balling (a lecturer in the Department of Communications at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC) and Joe Murphy (a professor at ASU) has been made available on DVD. The 58-minute film (shot on video) takes front-and-center on this DVD and it's just wonderful! The two teachers followed the legendary Doc Watson (who we, sadly, lost last year) and his son, Merle (who died in a tractor accident in 1985) for a few days and capture them talking about their unique father/son relationship and playing music (along with Doc's former partners from the 1950s and early 1960s). We get a lot of short performances but some full ones too, including a great 50s rock and roll medley near the end (Doc, Merle and T.Michael Coleman - on bass). Though blind nearly all his life, Doc doesn't let that get in his way of living a normal life. When you see him in his carpentry shop hammering nails (and never once hitting his finger!) you have to remind yourself that Doc is blind? Not soon thereafter we follow Doc as he climbs a ladder to his rooftop to install a window on the third floor of his house!

    The film contains some great early archival film performances too. Grossman has "indexed" the DVD into chapters so that you can go back and just play the songs on future viewings. (These include a performance of Doc's wife Rosa Lee singing the song Wandering Boy.

    The film is supplemented by a 25-minute TV show - Homewood, recorded in Los Angeles in 1970 with Doc and Merle performing eight full songs.

    Vestapol has other performance DVDs of Doc and Merle (originally released on VHS) but this new release is a welcome addition to the Doc and Merle legacy. I, for one, want to thank Grossman for giving us Doc fans a chance to see this film. – Steve Ramm/Anything Phonographic

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