July 8, 1993
By David Duckman [David Royko]
Norman Blake and the Rising Fawn String Ensemble
Doc & Merle Watson
For many, the term "folk music" conjures up images of singer/songwriters performing with acoustic instruments that are used as simple accompaniment, rarely with any attempt at virtuoso displays. Doc Watson and Norman Blake confound those expectations. While as singers they both fit snugly into the "folk" bag, their guitar picking is often front and center, because both are among the hottest players ever to bend a pick. Blake appears with his Rising Fawn trio that includes his talented wife Nancy on cello and mandolin, and their stage manner falls somewhere between "laid back" and comatose. The playing, however, is excellent, and this videotaped concert presents their distinctive "chamber-folk" music wonderfully, with its effective balance of vocal and instrumental pieces. The Doc & Merle Watson tape also preserves a concert, and includes interview footage as well, the most interesting segment being Doc's frank discussion of the impact blindness has had on his life, music and personality. The program is typical for Watson, a mix of folk, country, pop, and blues, and Doc's amusing way with a story is a pleasure to watch. His late son Merle was also a revered guitarist and banjoist, and could match Doc for imagination and technique, particularly when he picked up the slide for "Got The Blues Can't Be Satisfied" and a snarling "'Rangement Blues."
(Stefan Grossman's Guitar Workshop, P.O. Box 802, Sparta, NJ, 07871)