The late Doc Watson ’s daughter, Nancy Watson, has assembled a four-CD boxed set of previously-unreleased material that not only gives insight into the Grammy-winning guitarist’s development as an artist but also reveals the wide-ranging talents of his remarkably musical family.
Milestones: Legends of the Doc Watson Clan, set for release April 30 on the Open Records label, consists of 94 songs and stories that were recorded — mostly for family enjoyment — between 1954 and 2007. The collection is augmented with source notes and collages made up of more than 500 family photos.
Doc Watson died in May 2012 at the age of 89.
Collaborating with Nancy Watson as the album’s producer is Roy Andrade, a member of the bluegrass and old time country music studies faculty at East Tennessee State University and a founder of the Reeltime Travelers.
While Doc Watson’s singing and picking infuses most of these recordings, there are also generous samplings of music from his son Merle, daughter Nancy, wife Rosa Lee, brother Arnold and father-in-law Gaither Carlton.
There’s even a 1969 track of his mother Annie singing “The Churning Song” as she busily churns a batch of butter. Several selections feature him multi-tracking as a one-man band and playing a wide array of acoustic and electric instruments.
The handful of spoken-word stories range over a variety of subjects, from how Merle learned to play guitar to Doc’s reminiscences of a 1940 flood. (Merle died in 1985 at the age of 36 and is the inspiration for the annual Merlefest music festival.)
The recordings also display Doc’s affection for pop music through his covers of such standards as “Stardust,” “Twelfth of Never,” “Misty” and “Let the Rest of the World Go By.” There are samples of gospel, rockabilly, Western swing and cowboy music, as well.
Andrade annotated the album with the help of the noted folksinger and scholar Jody Stecher.