Published May 06, 2014Since leaving Old Crow Medicine Show — a band he co-founded — Willie Watson hasn't lost a step. On this haunting, haunted collection of 1920s-era country blues and Appalachian standards, Watson sounds every bit the maven of the post-millennium folk revival that his acolytes know him to be. Produced by (who else?) Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch, Watson's intimate solo performances come through clearly, caressed by the lightest touch of reverb, the suspicion of an echo. Folk Singer, Vol. 1 is as unassuming an album as you're likely to hear; one man, his banjo, his guitar, his high and lonesome voice, a microphone, a tape deck. What a treat to hear folk music played like folk music, for a change.
This is a welcome reminder that even stripped down to almost nothing, the best of these old standards is full to overflowing with passion, mystery, danger and wisdom. In the hands of an interpreter as skilled as Watson — a man who was discovered by no less an authority than Doc Watson back in the '90s — the songs seem to carry with them every one of those dusty miles that lies between the day they were written and this sunny morning. Lean in for this one. (Acony)