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Kruger Brothers - Remembering Doc Watson

Doc was our friend long before he had ever heard of us. We felt close to him. Luckily for us all, he recorded a vast repertoire that enabled him to touch the hearts of millions and fill them with a longing for a better world. His infectious enthusiasm yet humble approach to his art made us want to travel the world as musicians.

We had always hoped that one day we would get the chance to meet Doc and be able to thank him. The invitation to play at MerleFest in 1997 gave us that opportunity and, in the years to follow, our friendship with Doc grew. He invited us many times to their home where we would play some of the old songs for Rosa Lee that she so loved. Sometimes, he would go down to the basement and bring up Merle’s old banjo for Jens to play “Frosty Morn” or “The Cuckoo.” What an incredible feeling it was when Doc and Charles Welch would show up at some of our local shows and Doc would sit in with us for a few numbers. We were extremely honored when Doc asked us to take part in the recording of the 15th Anniversary DVD of MerleFest from which the track Shady Grove on this CD was taken.

Doc would always call Joel his “buddy” and called on him to help out on local shows when we were not on the road.  To be able to back Doc up as the Kruger Brothers on some of his final shows and to watch in awe as he gave his all on every song are some of the most memorable moments of our musical careers.

The passing of Doc and Rosa Lee in 2012 has not ended our friendship. As long as there is a song and a flat top guitar, there will be a part of Doc Watson living on. 

 

Songs:

Singing my Troubles Away
Doc told us once that he loved listening to the Delmore Brothers and singing their songs. That inspired Uwe to go out and acquire a collection of their recordings. We instantly fell in love with this song, and it became one of our back porch favorites.

Little Sadie
For us this song embodies the spirit of the music of the Western North Carolina Mountains. Doc once referred to it as “sort of a ballad and a  blues combined.”

Corrina, Corrina
We’ve known this song ever since we were children. Our parents had a recording of it on an obscure country sampler that had featured a band known as the Cumberland Clan. We jammed with Doc on this song on several occasions.

Trouble In Mind
Blues music was always a big part of Doc’s repertoire so we felt it important to include one of Uwe’s favorites. Uwe learned the song, from a singer named John B. McCarthy, when he was 12 years old.

Tom Dooley
We, like most everyone else, grew up with the Kingston Trio version of this story. The first time we heard Doc’s version it left a big impression on us. Trying to capture the immediacy and drive of that recording was always one of our goals. For Uwe to have gotten married in the exact courtroom where Tom Dula was actually tried is an oddly notable coincidence.

Pallet on Your Floor
“Pallet –n.  a small makeshift bed or mattress of straw,” not the cargo platform that gets fork-lifted onto the back of a truck. This song made much more sense to us when we discovered the difference. One very special bond that we shared with Doc was our common history as street musicians. This song always brings us back to that time when we didn’t know where we were going to find a bed for the night.

Streamlined Cannonball
When we got a copy of the 1979 Doc and Merle release Live and Pickin’ it was our first introduction to the incredible energy of their live performances. Originally recorded by Roy Acuff as a waltz, Doc turned this song into something completely new, making it his own. This freedom of interpretation and the uncanny instinct to do just the right thing with a song was always a hallmark of Doc’s work in our eyes.

Windy and Warm
Our dad had Chet Atkins’ version of this tune on an old album. You could say that it was probably one of the main reasons Uwe and Jens wanted to learn to play the guitar as children. Because of Doc and Merle we came up with our version on two acoustic guitars; Joel’s bass line is inspired by Eric Weisberg.

Freight Train
This Elizabeth Cotton song is probably one of the most famous and beloved folk tunes in the world. Doc often included a version of this song in his shows and Joel has many great memories of playing the song with him. 

John Henry
Like in so many other songs that Doc brought us, humanity prevails. The steam drill is long gone, but John Henry still lives on.

What Does the Deep Sea Say
The eternal story of losing a loved one without knowing where they’ve been laid to rest is so deeply felt in this solemn song that Doc Watson taught to us through one of his earliest recordings. 

Hang Me, Oh Hang Me
Playing this song always reminds us of the times when we used to go camping together in the Swiss Alps, sitting around the campfire, playing Doc Watson music and dreaming of one day going to America. Even though the times have changed, the memories remain.

I Still Miss Someone
This song was written about lost romance, but we think that it covers a much broader range of loss.  It brings us back to playing this song on one sunny Saturday afternoon with Doc at the Todd General Store. 

Shady Grove
Jens had once asked Doc why he always had a tear in his eye when we played Shady Grove. Doc told Jens that it reminded him of the times when he would sit on the front porch of his home picking guitar, with his children playing around his feet while RosaLee was in the kitchen cooking and singing. He said that those were the happiest days of his life.

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