Traditional music has seen its share of revivals in this country. From the first-wave folk rejuvenation of the late 19th century to the Depression-era return to Delta blues and other old-time iterations; the folk revival of the 1960s to today’s reinvigorated interest in Appalachian musical traditions; it’s clear that the roots of quintessentially American music are strong and deep.
This season, our Roots Music in the Music Room series brings you two seriously authentic folksingers who hit the road on their own, leaving highly celebrated and popular bands behind to breathe new life into folk’s long legacy: Willie Watson, featured here, and Dom Flemons, featured in an earlier e-newsletter.
After 11 years as a founding member of alt-country supergroup Old Crow Medicine Show, this warbling picker shifted gears (Watson’s other-worldly pipes sound equally at home when accompanied by a steel string guitar as they are when complimented by his banjo). His first solo release in 2014, Folksinger Vol. 1, received high praise from critics who found comfort in his pure, raw covers of folk standards by long-deceased greats such as Lead Belly and Richard ‘Rabbit’ Brown.
There’s nothing flashy in his playing. No ostentation. Just a man who “sounds like he’s fallen through a portal from a century ago” (The Guardian) bringing surreal, dark, yet still relevant tunes out of the shadows. Think O Brother, Where Art Thou? or Inside Llewyn Davis. Produced by powerhouse folker David Rawlings – known for his work with Gillian Welch, Old Crow, Bright Eyes, Ryan Adams, Sara Watkins, and others – Folksinger packs the authentic punch its title implies.
Opening for Watson are the indie string band Cricket Tell the Weather, a returning Caramoor favorite with timeless harmonies, strong songwriting, and hints of bluegrass, pop, and chamber ensemble.
Learn why Watson’s Folksinger is an album you “really should hear.” Watch his cover of Lead Belly’s “Midnight Special” with guests Welch and Rawlings. Meet him on NPR’s Mountain Stage. Hear more from this anachronistic troubadour.