Country Music People October 2017 - Page 41

“The material is still drawn from the wide range of traditional genres and just over half of the performances are solo, but there are some subtle additional musical contributions that really enhance the songs, while remaining delicate enough to not break the spell.” WILLIE WATSON Folksinger Vol.2  Samson And Delilah / Gallows Pole / When My Baby Left Me / Dry Bones / Walking Boss / On The Road Again / The Cuckoo Bird / Always Lift Him Up And Never Knock Him Down / John Henry / Leavin’ Blues / Take This Hammer Producer: David Rawlings Acony Records 34:57 Sometimes the obvious course of action is the best way. Willie Watson, once a member of Old Crow Medicine Show, loves playing old folk, blues, gospel and Appalachian material and three years ago David Rawlings recorded him just doing that as a solo performance and it was released as Folk Singer Vol.1. It was a refreshing trip to the American folk music well and a lovely, heartfelt album. The title indicated that this was the first of a series and Folksinger Vol.2 has now been released. In addition to “Folksinger” becoming a single word in the title, there are other subtle changes. The material is still drawn from the wide range of traditional genres and just over half of the performances are solo, but there are some subtle additional musical contributions that really enhance the songs, while remaining delicate enough to not break the spell. The Fairfield Four add lovely harmonies to the traditional song Samson And Delilah and give Leadbelly’s Take This Hammer an atmospheric gospel sound. For the Trad song On The Road Again, The Fairfield Four are joined by Old Crow’s double bassist Morgan Jahnig and Gillian Welch on drums in an unexpectedly large ensemble. Alfred Reed’s Always Lift Him Up And Never Knock Him Down is enhanced by a Woodwind Ensemble giving background colour and they also appear on a terrific version of the traditional song Gallows Pole (both arranged by Rawlings). Punch Brothers bass player Paul Kowert adds some bottom end to the Furry Lewis song When My Baby Left Me. The other tracks are solo performances by Watson using guitar, banjo, slide guitar and harmonica with occasional overdubbing of harmonica or slide guitar over acoustic guitar. John Henry is set to rampant, percussive banjo playing, Dry Bones uses the banjo in a more comp act fashion, but is equally delightful. Clarence Ashley’s song about railroad workers, Walking Boss, is given an appropriate melancholy with an almost mechanical vocal that reflects the repetitive nature of the work; it is a haunting and memorable treatment. Watson also learned the traditional The Cuckoo Bird from Clarence Ashley’s playing and it is a perfect song for banjo accompaniment and Leavin’ Blues is a Leadbelly song where Watson unleashes a blues holler that pushes him emotionally into the top of his register. The material is a balance between fairly well-known songs and rarer material. Watson gives them all fabulous relevance by adding his own stamp while staying true to the essence of the tradition and is aided by excellent production guidance from David Rawlings. I loved Vol.1 and Vol.2 is even better. Michael Hingston OCTOBER 2017 - cmp 41