After fine solo performances by Bryan Bowers and John Hartford, Doc and Merle Watson brought a fitting climax to a long, rewarding evening of acoustic folk and bluegrass music at the Warner Theatre last night. Doc Watson's smoky, 59-year-old voice lent an unassuming charm and unassailable credibility to songs by Mississippi John Hurt, Jimmie Rodgers and George Gershwin. As Watson and his son Merle both grow older, Merle takes more of the lead guitar parts and shows more of his dad's style. T. Michael Coleman added supple but unobtrusive bass.
Bryan Bowers illustrated why he is considered one of America's foremost virtuosos on the idle harp. With his wide finger reach, he brought bass and soprano harmony embellishments to his brisk strumming of hymns and bluegrass. In recent years, Bowers has also become a virtuoso at storytelling, and he wisely spent as much time on his hilarious monologues as on his music.
John Hartford is hardly the world's best singer or most emotional performer, but he was, nevertheless, entertaining with his deep bag of rural vaudeville tricks. Whether he was playing the banjo with his gray derby, tap-dancing a percussive rhythm to a fiddle breakdown or imitating a warped record with his mouth's sound effects, Hartford offered one imaginative diversion after another.