Willie Watson, Folksinger Vol. 2 Review

A few posts back I wrote about my serendipitous and probably irresponsible purchase of tickets to see Willie Watson at the Fremont Abbey in Seattle. I mean, the tickets were a straight up bargain; the flight and hotel were maybe pushing the boundaries of fiscal responsibility. But sometimes -most times- you oughta just go for broke. Plus, my dearest friend lives in Seattle, so there was no question that a good time was gonna be had.

I’ve been wanting to see Willie Watson live since I heard his first solo album (Folksinger Vol. 1) and he didn’t disappoint. He opened the show with “Take This Hammer,” and his incomparable voice in that little room…well, I think my heart might have stopped.

21686355_10154783145291560_6855511578808245862_n

Not by best shot, but I didn’t want to use a flash.

The Lead Belly classic is my favourite track on Folksinger Vol. 2, a record of back to back standout songs. On the album version, Watson is accompanied by the Fairfield Four, who bring all the power and depth you’d expect from one of the greatest gospel groups in the world.

The record, produced by David Rawlings for he and Gillian Welch’s Acony Records label, kicks off with a rousing version of “Samson and Delilah” with the Fairfield Four. “Gallows Pole” is haunting and perfectly suited to Watson’s high and keening sound. “Dry Bones,” “Walking Boss,” “The Cuckoo Bird,” and “John Henry” are fresh-sounding folk standards, and the blues are solidly represented by “When My Baby Left Me,” and “Leavin’ Blues.” The Blind Alfred Reed song “Always Lift Him Up and Never Knock Him Down” is lifted up (see what I did there? 🙄) by the addition of a woodwind ensemble which lends an orchestral (almost minstrel) feel to the track.

The jugband sound of “On The Road Again” features the Fairfield Four and Gillian Welch, and makes for a pretty great sing-a-long, though I had to look up what a “natural-born eastman” was. (From what I could gather, I think it was a term for a man who lived off of a woman; kind of a pimp. And man, pimps are always fun to sing about, I don’t care who you are.)

Big pimpin’.

I was lucky to meet Willie after the Seattle show and he couldn’t have been kinder or more humble. I used to be the hospitality coordinator for a popular venue that hosted all of my favourite bands and I’ve never been nervous to meet anyone in my life, but I think I was a nervy spaz when I met Willie Watson! I’m frequently captured by music, but I was deeply moved at his show. It had me all kinds of emotional, and my sarcastic shell was cracked for the night (don’t worry, it grew back.)

21762214_10154770258796560_6003432767466000562_n

I’m hoping to see him again on this tour, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he’ll play in some state nearer to Winnipeg, and the legion of folkies we’ve got here.

I tend to carry on when I love something this much; yesterday, my husband asked me if I had a crush on Willie Watson. I said “No, sweetie, I have a crush on Blair Redford. I just have a deep and abiding musical devotion to Willie Watson.” You will, too, so get on out there and buy yourself a copy of Folksinger Vol. 2, and if you have a chance to see Willie live, take it!

21766673_10154786326926560_6571158177880593227_n

Willie Watson

Whirlwind decision-making there, Ayns.

It was a lazy afternoon at the shop and I was glancing through facebook to avoid doing any actual work, when I saw a post about the upcoming Willie Watson tour. He’s one of my only favourite musicians that I haven’t seen live, so I thought I’d better check the tour dates. If you’re a fan of old folk and Americana music, high and lonesome vocals, guitar playing and banjo picking, or if you just like people who look like they’ve time-travelled to the present from the 30s Dust Bowl, I think you should check him out, too.

Screen shot 2017-07-21 at 3.55.15 PM.png

I didn’t figure he’d be playing Canada, but I thought I’d look. There were no Canadian dates, but then I saw that he’d be playing in Seattle (WHERE MY BEST FRIEND LIVES) on September 15th (WHICH IS THE OFFICIAL ALBUM RELEASE DATE) so I checked flight prices from Winnipeg to Seattle, figuring it was probably gonna be too spendy. $310 (Canadian) RETURN. I texted my fella to ask if he wanted to go, but he can’t get away. I texted my bestie Annette, to see if she and her family would be in town and up for visitors that weekend. She didn’t respond within 14 seconds so I bought myself a flight, three tickets for the show and hoped for the best. (I was very excited and I am not patient.) Luckily, I heard back from her, and she, her husband and I will be going to see Willie at the Fremont Abbey Arts Center!

This all happened in about 4 minutes.

It looks like this summer my bucket list for bands and musicians is going to be complete! (Until I find more favourites…the world is full of possibilities.)

MY TOP 10 BANDS/MUSICIANS BUCKET LIST 

Bob Dylan

John Prine

Gillian Welch & David Rawlings

Levon Helm

Kacey Musgraves

K’Naan

The White Stripes

The Who

Beck (tickets for August 2017!)

Willie Watson (tickets for September 2017!)