Never the Same Way Once (7 CD)
7 CD, Box Set
|New from||Used from|
Audio CD, Box set, June 23, 2017
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Not a songwriter of note himself, Doc [Watson] was a folk musician in the broadest sense of the term, and a wonderful interpreter of early Americana equally adept at singing and playing George Gershwin's ''Summertime'' and the traditional blues ''Mama Don't Allow No Music'' as he was at another traditional song often associated with Louis Armstrong, ''St. James Infirmary Blues,'' as well as the ageless ''Wabash Cannonball.'' Though it sounds like hyperbole, there isn't such thing as a bad Doc Watson record, but this boxed set may be the most extraordinary Doc Watson ever captured on tape. Ever. From the very first notes of the first of the seven different shows presented here, it's clear that Doc, his son, Merle, and bassist T. Michael Coleman are locked in and having fun. They wanna be there, and it shows. The musicianship is sparkling and flawless throughout, and their joie de vivre bubbles through all seven discs. There's a bounce to these performances that I've heard on no other Doc record, live or from the studio. From the incredibly fast ''Nancy Rowland/Old Joe Clark'' to the impassioned ''South Coast,'' the song sung in John Ford's film, ''Grapes of Wrath'' (both on chapter 4, disc 1), to the unexpected Elvis medley at the end of chapter 2, disc 1, these are Watson performances for the ages. The slide-guitar work of Merle, who died in a tragic tractor accident on the family farm in 1985, is utterly sublime. Two guests, Ken Lauber on piano, and Billy Roberts on harmonica, appear in two different shows each. Owsley ''Bear'' Stanley [the Grateful Dead's legendary soundman & sound system architect] certainly did know how to record in this room. The audience is audible, as are the between-tune exchanges among the three men, and most of Doc's jokes are funny. The tapes were processed using the Plangent system, to correct any wow and flutter and to recover lost frequencies. The result is exceptional sound, intimate yet three-dimensional. --Stereophile, Recording Of The Month, Robert Baird, 9/12/17
Top customer reviews
This set is from four shows in May 1-4, 1974, at the Boarding House, a club in S.F. that a number of other bands have played over the years. The sound is very good, clean, warm, and organic sounding. Recorded by Owsley Stanley ("Bear"), his penchant for making good sounding tapes is well known. The tapes (15 ips on a Nagra IV 1/4" 2 track) were mastered by Jeffrey Norman, who is well known for his work with the Grateful Dead. This would probably have been an eight CD set but (like what happens sometimes with the Dead) not all reels could be found. But the sound isn't perfect. A nicely done "Matchbox Blues" from May 3 is marred by Billy Roberts' harmonica being too far from a mic to adequately hear it--a minor quibble.
The 94 tracks here haven't been heard since the original nights of the four shows over 40 years ago. Norman has reduced the subtle sonic distortions (wow and flutter) leaving more accurate sounding performances on all the tracks. There are very slight differences between the four nights recordings due to Stanley's tinkering with the sound and some intangibles, like the "atmosphere", Stanley "felt" each night. But the barely noticeable tinkering he did with the mics isn't really an issue even for audiophiles--as I mentioned, the watchwords are clean, warm, and organic. This is the first release by the Owsley Stanley Foundation, a non-profit organization for the preservation of Stanley's tapes. He recorded quite a few complete shows by various bands (not just the Dead) which, if the tapes are okay, will blow the minds of fans of that era of music. Hopefully this set is the first of many to be released in the near future.
Doc Watson is well known as a fine flat picker and singer of bluegrass, country, folk, blues, jazz, and gospel music, and he also wrote some good songs of his own. His son, Merle (playing guitar/slide guitar/banjo), is also a fine musician in his own right. Included in this set are songs rarely if ever performed and recorded by Doc Watson. The between song talking by Watson to the audience has been left in for a seamless, more authentic feel from track to track. There's a wide range of styles here, bringing together the genres Watson loved to sing and play. Included are songs like "Salty Dog Blues", "Blue Yodel (T for Texas)", "Tennessee Stud", "Deep Elem Blues" (a personal favorite), "Wabash Cannonball", "St. James Infirmary", "Sweet Georgia Brown", "Poor Boy Blues", "New River Train" (another personal favorite), "Doc's Guitar", "Blue Suede Shoes", "Lonesome Moan", "Summertime", "Jailhouse Rock", "Black Mountain Rag", and other songs taken from Watson's vast repertoire of tunes from a lifetime of playing and singing and learning new songs. The performances are of a high caliber beginning with the first set, but the performances get even better by the third night, and by the fourth show Watson and his group are even more relaxed, and playing at such high level it's quite something to hear. I can only imagine what it was like sitting there and hearing this music in person.
The discs are labeled "Chapters"--Chapter 1 is May 1, and so on. One disc is from May 1 (there seems to be a missing reel from May 1), two discs from May 2, two discs from May 3, and two discs from May 4. The 16 page booklet includes a couple of period photos plus photos (check the cover) of Doc Watson's Gallagher guitar he played up through '74, and other ephemera. There's a recent interview with T. Michael Coleman, who played bass for many years with Doc and Merle Watson (and is heard here plus Billy Roberts-occasional harmonica, and Ken Lauber-occasional piano), and an essay by Grammy winner David Holt, who worked with Watson. There's been some earlier misinformation (on Amazon and other places) about the outer packaging--everything fits into a cardboard slipcase about 5" X 5" or so. This is a great chance to hear Doc Watson live, especially since there's not a lot of live recordings from this era. This music is very easy on the ears--a welcome respite from more current music and the current state of the world. Hopefully this set will appeal to more people than just his fans--I still own the original vinyl of Doc's first couple of albums on the Vanguard label--"Doc Watson", "Southbound", plus "Doc & Merle On Stage"--I purchased on vinyl soon after each was released--which are hard to beat. Plus the "Live At Gerde's Folk City" set, with recordings from '62-'63--Watson's earliest known live solo released recordings is a nice set of tunes.
While he was alive, Doc Watson was a living, breathing jukebox of "American" music. That unadorned, smooth voice with just enough backwoods/country/hillbilly tone in it that reeked of authenticity. And his picking--a seemingly effortless combination of all the styles he absorbed. Combined with a plain spoken, honest nature that came out on stage when he talked to an audience, Watson was a treasure to music fans everywhere. But even though he's gone, we have live recordings like these that show Doc Watson in his prime.
Not only is this a great set of "American" music by one of it's finest exponents and his son, it's a live set with that atmosphere that only comes from the live stage. Plus, by purchasing this box set you're supporting further releases from the cache of tapes owned by Bear that few, if anyone, has heard since the nights they were recorded. All the proceeds from this box set go toward preserving other tapes before they're lost to the ravages of time. Personally I'm looking forward to more live sets from Bear's tape vault. This endeavor to digitally preserve Stanley's approximately 1,300 tapes before they're beyond salvaging is a worthwhile effort for all music fans. The tapes cover a number of performers and genres and need to be preserved and heard.
As I write this, this set has a waiting time for delivery. It's worth the wait!
With the release of Dion's "Kickin' Child" album, and with Steve Young's "Seven Bridges Road" album now reissued, this is a good time for music fans.