Friday, August 25, 2017





For nearly two decades, Willie Watson has made modern folk music rooted in older traditions. He’s a folksinger in the classic sense: a singer, storyteller, and traveler, with a catalog of songs that bridge the gap between the past and present. On FOLKSINGER VOL. 2, he acts as a modern interpreter of older songs, passing along his own version of the music that came long before him.

DAVE RAYBURN: How did you first get turned on to music from this unique period?
WILLIE WATSON: From perusing through my father’s record collection as a teenager, and the local music scene in Tompkins County, New York.

DAVE: In the production world, David Rawlings seems to earn a similar degree of respect to that of T-Bone Burnett. Can you reflect on your history with David and what he brings to the table for you?
WILLIE: I first worked with Dave with the Old Crow Medicine Show. He produced their first two major releases. He’s just fantastic. It seems to me he makes records the way records used to be made in the 50’s and 60’s. Aside from using analog tape and old microphones, he looks for the music that makes you feel something, as opposed to technicality and perfect timing.

DAVE: How did you come to work with the legendary Fairfield Four, and what was the selection process to determine which songs would benefit from their embellishments?
WILLIE: I played a festival in Scotland and they were there, and they reached out to me to see if I could play a song with them. From there it was decided to bring them in to the studio to sing a few songs. We wanted to bring something new to the table for FOLKSINGER VOL. 2, and it seemed like they were the perfect element to add to the mix. The songs we chose for them to sing didn’t seem complete as a solo performance. When they came into the mix, it’s like it was meant to be.

DAVE: Seeing how the material from your FOLKSINGER albums have been represented over the years through a variety of multi-generational audiences such as HARRY SMITH’S ANTHOLOGY OF AMERICAN FOLK MUSIC on the Folkways label in the fifties to the 70s rock music influence of Led Zeppelin and the Grateful Dead to the more-recent “American Epic” documentary series on PBS… would you say that much of this music will continue to endure the test of time?
WILLIE: Yes, I hope so.

DAVE: It may be safe to assume that you are a collector of older records… and, quite likely, a seeker of the very fragile shellac ten-inch discs from yesteryear. If this is the case, which record labels tend to stir excitement in your mind when you browse the vintage bins?
WILLIE: If you’re talking about 78’s, the Paramount blues records are rare and sought after, and they’re expensive, too. And as far as the 60’s era, then Folkways, Vanguard, County, Yazoo and Folk Legacy are all some great labels.

DAVE: If production qualities and genre tags were stripped away from today’s music, how would you compare the strength of modern songs compared to material from ninety to a hundred years previous?
WILLIE: I don’t think production quality or genre tags have anything to do with it. It has more to do with the quality of the songwriting. There are plenty of songwriters today who write songs that are just as good as songs from 100 years ago. There just aren’t as many of them.

DAVE: Citing the direction the band was heading as part of the reason you left the group, what would you say has been the biggest difference between the music that Old Crow Medicine Show currently creates and the music you make today?
WILLIE: As far as the music that the Old Crow Medicine Show makes today, I’m happy they’re making the music they want to make. There’s too many differences between my music and theirs to make a comparison, other than the instruments that we use.

DAVE: How are the prospects for a FOLKSINGER VOL. 3 in another couple years?
WILLIE: We’ll see what happens. Hopefully people will be happy with FOLKSINGER VOL. 2 for now.




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