Tommy Emmanuel and Billy Strings jam on Doc’s Guitar and Black Mountain Rag

Attention Doc Watson fans and flatpick guitar lovers… Two of the premier steel string guitarists of our age have released a live video of their recorded tribute to Doc.

Tommy Emmanuel and Billy Strings cut a medley of two instrumentals long associated with the inimitable Doc Watson, Doc’s Guitar and Black Mountain Rag. The recording is for Tommy’s Accomplice Two album, which finds him paired with some of his favorite pickers for the second time around.

Backed by Mike Bub on bass, Tommy and Billy tear through these two standards, with Emmanuel shifting between finger style and picked guitar, as is his wont, and Strings wielding his flatpick throughout.

Tommy shared a bit about playing with Billy, and his abiding love for Doc.

“I knew I wanted to have Billy Strings play with me on Doc’s Guitar/Black Mountain Rag. The moment we played together the very first time at MerleFest (2016), I heard his beautiful phrasing and his Doc quotes that took me back to hearing Doc when I was a teenager. Billy has Doc in his DNA, so getting him to come and record these tunes was only a matter of finding a time to capture it in a studio.

The actual recording was quick, and we only did a couple of takes and we were done. I had never heard Doc in Australia as I had spent most of my life in very rural areas where record stores were rare and music by Chet, Merle, and Doc was impossible to find. It was an American tourist who saw me play at a show and came up to me afterwards and told me I sounded a bit like Doc Watson. I said, ‘who is Doc Watson?’

He gave me his tape out of his car stereo and I heard Doc for the first time. I think that was around 1973-74. I was smitten with his singing and his great playing, and I could hear the influences of Chet Atkins and Merle Travis all over his playing, but there was some Jimmie Rodgers too. Then I found more recordings that led to some of his fiddle tunes and blazing guitar works!

My personal favorite recording by Doc is the album Reflections—a duets album with Chet Atkins. His legacy and body of work and influence are monumental and unequalled in my eyes.

Thanks Doc for showing so many of us the way!”

The Accomplice Two album, which also finds Tommy in the studio with Molly Tuttle, Sierra Hull, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, The Del McCoury Band, David Grisman, and pop star Michael McDonald, releases on Friday, April 28. Pre-orders and pre-saves are enabled now online.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.