The Doc Watson Family is a collection of 26 songs that highlights the rich musical and social world of the Watson Family from the mountains of Avery and Watauga Counties. Though Arthel “Doc” Watson is the best known of the family, many of his relatives sung, played, and danced to music that has sustained families in Appalachia for generations.
This album is a must-have for any fan of Appalachian folk music, and particularly for fans of Doc Watson himself. Doc’s long and storied career is illuminated here by his relationships and musical influences, which are woven throughout this collection. Fans will recognize some of these songs as old standards that Doc made his own—“That Train That Carried My Girl From Town,” “Shady Grove,” and “Groundhog” are just a few. Some songs, whether ballads or not, are spare, perhaps sung solo or accompanied only by one other instrument. A beautifully heart-wrenching version of “the House Carpenter,” for example, features just a fiddle and his mother Annie’s mournful vocals. Others feature multiple Watsons playing together, forming a full band that points to Doc’s inspiration to for many years play then-contemporary honky-tonk and hillbilly music.
Since its original release in 1963, The Doc Watson Family has been a go-to for fans of folk music to understand how one of the most vaunted of old-time musicians grew out of a particular time and place: the early- and mid-20th century in the mountains on the North Carolina-Tennessee line. There is a reason it has remained in print so long. The Doc Watson Family’s importance as an album, a document, and even a family portrait, is unmatched.