A lot has been written since the passing of Arthel "Doc" Watson about his influence, his amazing guitar playing and his role in popularizing traditional American music. Ash Grove club owner Ed Pearl is quoted in the LA Times as saying, "Doc was by far the best traditional artist I ever met at talking openly about his people, and just having a casual conversation with an audience...he was among the most versatile and un-self-conscious bringers of Southern white culture to the Ash Grove possible, and he did that right from the beginning." If you haven't heard Doc's music, or haven't heard it lately, pick up one of his recordings next time you're in the library. His music will continue to resonate with listeners attuned to the purity and authenticity of great traditional music.
The Sweet Soul Music series has proven a surprising local favorite in the library's cd collection. These cds from the premier reissue label Bear Family Records, based in Germany, collect the original recordings that defined this classic American music style. Mixing the well known (Mary Wells, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye) with the more obscure but equally significant (Don Covay, Slim Harpo, The Elgins) these beautifully annotated and illustrated compilations tell the story of the performers and producers who fused Southern Gospel, R&B, and even Country music into what came to be known as Soul. The library owns volumes from the set that represent each year from 1963 through 1969. Also of interest is the three-cd set Take Me To The River: A Southern Soul Story, 1961-1977. This collection is somewhat parallel in purpose to the Sweet Soul Music series, but sticks to recordings made in the South. It, too, is a mix of the hits and commercial misses that are now judged to have been the most definitive recordings in the history of Soul. In Europe, where American Blues, Country, Jazz, and Soul are still greatly admired, this set won MOJO magazine's Best Compilation Award for 2009. A national treasure.