Is there a Doc in the house? Deep Gap, NC folk icon Doc Watson isn't one of those legends well past their prime that you go and see just to be able to tell your kids you saw them live (like, say, the Rolling Stones). Doc seems to add a little something to his show each year, even as he recycles his proven laugh-getters (After holding a long, yodeling note, Doc inevitably chimes "I don't smoke," which brings down the house). His picking, still strong after all these years, hasn't become a caricature of his fret-burnin' past (see BB King). Doc's harmonic histrionics are more often left to grandson Richard Watson or Harrisburg native Jack Lawrence. That said, Watson still has lots of gas left in his tank, and his ability to bend and squeeze all the emotion out of a note is Miles Davis-like in its spot-on subtlety. As always, Watson was peerless as a song interpreter, mixing Johnny Cash with Jimmie Rodgers, Pat Boone with Christian hymns, and "Knights in White Satin" along with the Carter Family (Yes, he did in fact play "Knights in White Satin"). As the show ended, people left with a surprised glow on their face. Perhaps they were surprised a man his age could play for two and a half hours. Perhaps it was something else. Something about seeing a blind man up there playing music seems to inspire some of us to feel bad about the performer, and muse about how terrible it must be to have their lot in life. Seeing Doc pickin' and grinnin' like he does, genuinely loving the camaraderie and rapport with the audience, delighting in picking on his grandson Richard and friend Lawrence, ought to make us reconsider. Just because one doesn't have it easy doesn't mean they have it hard. We should all be so lucky. -- TD
An Allstar evening: I considered myself fortunate to have scored a pass to attend the one and only advance screening of the star-studded flick, Oceans 11 last Tuesday (December 4). After repeated warnings from those "in the know," I reluctantly arrived an hour early. A line of about 20-30 early birds had already formed, so I took a place, and watched mayhem slowly ensue. Over the next 15-20 minutes, scores of folks with passes in hand filled the lobby. The theater doors opened and fans rushed to get a seat (and save a half dozen for their friends). It wasn't long before the theater was slam full and dozens of people were left standing in the aisles -- many with a menacing look like, "go for the popcorn missy, and the seat is mine!" Four of those left standing were the faithful yet often misunderstood local film critics (CL's Matt Brunson included). Sponsors and theater reps were quick to their feet to offer various incentives to anyone willing to vacate their seat. Of course, the first to surrender were those with the crappiest seats, but after several pleas (and fatter offers) enough people co-operated until the critics were properly situated. I'll leave the critique part up to those who do it for a living; I will say that the Rat Pack remake clearly brought out those of rat pack mentality. . .even in Ballantyne.
After the movie, I headed to the Visulite to check out the North Mississippi Allstars, which feature Luther and Cody Dickinson (sons of the legendary Memphis musician/producer, Jim Dickinson). It was only shortly after 10pm, but several folks were already exiting because the opener (as my luck would have it), Robert Randolph & The Family Band, had apparently torn the place down. So many people started asking me if I had borne witness to what must have been a truly awesome set that even I had to question my obsession with Brad Pitt. But my luck turned and Randolph, the hot pickin' pedal steel player, was quick to join the Allstars on stage. After all the hoopla over Randolph, I was expecting more of a seasoned fella, but at the sweet age of 24, his boyish grin and earnestness still managed to win me over. . .not to mention the playing, which was darn good. Shortly after his guest appearance, Randolph made his way to the lobby to work his own mailing list and greet his new fans. The Allstars, however, were worth sticking around for, and the 450 folks who braved coming to the show even if it was a weeknight, didn't seem disappointed. The ultra-casual t-shirt and jean clad crowd was friendly and laidback for the most part, but I still can't figure out where some folks think they're going to make their way to when it's packed liked stinking sardines in the pit in front of the stage. At least most said, "Excuse Me," as they maneuvered their way through the crowd. Word has it, Randolph will be back to perform at the Visulite in the near future, too. -- LF