I Am A Pilgrim
Celebrating the 100th anniversary of Doc Watson’s birth, FLi Records/Budde Music have released an impressive tribute CD that both honors the indelible legacy of the guitarist and singer from Deep Gap, North Carolina, while involving musicians and styles far from Doc’s country roots.
I Am A Pilgrim features tracks from bluegrass stars like Jerry Douglas, Doc’s longtime sideman Jack Lawrence, and Chris Eldridge, as one would expect. Flux opens the CD with a gloriously multi-tracked resonator guitar rendition of “Shady Grove.” Lawrence brings back to life the hot guitar flatpicking duets he shared with Doc on “Florida Blues.” Critter expertly uses his world-worn voice and Rice-aroni’ed flatpicking style to craft an aching “Little Sadie.”
The project grows more ambitious on other tracks. The superstar Americana duo of Rosanne Cash and Jon Leventhal have the honor of performing the title track. Their vocals and paired acoustic guitars make for perfection here. Farther afield, jazz guitar legend Bill Frisell teams with Valerie June, the multi-talented singer, songwriter and performer comfortable in genres ranging from gospel and blues to bluegrass and old-time country. June lays down a powerful clawhammer banjo on “Handsome Molly” with Frisell providing his trademark sonic palette of gorgeous electric guitar tones and effects. One questionable decision was the inclusion of west African guitarist Lionel Loueke, a jazz-focused artist, whose rendition of “Lonesome Reuben” is certainly eclectic.
Trying to sum up any influential musician’s career in a tribute project is always a fool’s errand. But here, the producers and talented musicians assembled for this record have produced a broadly appealing album with tracks appealing to the hard-core Doc fan to others interested in hearing how other musical voices interpret Doc Watson’s legendary music.