In Japan Doc Watson would have been declared a National cultural treasure years ago. His Sugar Hill anthology shows just why he's so special. From the opening attack of "Black Mountain Rag" to the final decaying note of "Cannonball Rag" you can't help but be amazed by Doc's technical ability and artistic creativity. The appellation "guitar genius" is inadequate to describe Arthel "Doc" Watson. If you haven't heard him you don't know what magic can be done with a single triangular guitar pick.
For anyone who doesn't own a Doc Watson recording Foundation is an excellent first purchase. It contains material from eleven previous albums. While there isn't anything here that hasn't already been released, the sequencing, excellent sound, and fine packaging may appeal even to hard-core Doc fans who have most of his output on CD. Dan Crary, no flatpicking slouch himself, contributes insightful liner notes, while David Glasser, arguably the finest digital mastering engineer for acoustic music on the planet, uses the Pacific Microsonics HDCD process to great sonic effect. This fine album will convince you that Doc Watson is one of the truly great guitarists of the 20th century.
Unlike Doc Watson, probably only a handful of people outside the insular world of flatpicking and bluegrass guitar have heard of Eric Thompson. He too is one of the pioneers of this all-American musical form. Thompson's Real Bluegrass Instrumentals with Guitar was first released on Kicking Mule records in 1978. This re-release includes all the original material as well as a pair of guitar mandolin duets that Eric recorded with David Grisman in 1993. Eric Thompson's guitar style is rather different from Doc's. Eric uses some string bending and arpeggiated stylings that draw more from rock and R&B influences.
Joining Thompson on Real Bluegrass Instrumentals are younger incarnations of Tony Rice on rhythm guitar, Jody Stecher and David Grisman on mandolin, Todd Phillips and Markie Sanders on bass, Rick Shubb and Sandy Rothman on banjo, and Paul Shelasky on fiddle. These 1978 sessions were made at 1750 Arch Studio by Bob Shumaker, and sound quite good considering their age. Of course the two 1993 duets sound much better, but what do you expect?
My favorite cuts from Real Bluegrass Instrumentals are the two duets with David Grisman. Eric's current playing is both lyrical and assured, with fewer notes, but more profound music. If you have a hard time finding this CD at your local CD superstore, you can e-mail Eric at EricD28@aol.com.