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With Stanley and Watson, sound isn't elementary

By Greg Yost, August 2017

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Armed with just acoustic guitars, slide guitars, banjo and harmonica, the Watsons and a few special guests, including T. Michael Coleman on bass guitar, wowed the crowd gathered in the nightclub through a combination of their unparalleled instrumental chops and an eclectic mix of songs that covered the broad landscape between the yodeling tunes of Jimmie "The Singing Brakeman" Rodgers to Leiber and Stoller's "Jailhouse Rock" and everything in between.

The quality of Stanley's recordings is such that if you close your eyes and listen to these discs, you do feel like you are in the room that night experiencing the concert.

In explaining the decision to include all performances from the Watson's four-night stand at the Boarding House in this inaugural disc, Semins also nicely summarized Bear's genius and why this recording, and all of his other Sonic Journals in the archive, is worth saving.

"I think there's something very special to the way Bear mikes the stage. The reason we went with all four nights and seven discs is that we're not just chronicling this sort of night in musical history and the playing by the artists on that night, we're also chronicling the way Bear changed his technique each night. You can hear differences in the way he miked the stage and you can hear differences in the atmosphere in the room the way he picks it up each night. And each night tells a very very different story, which is a credit to the way he worked."

What's next? Semins says, "Our primary mission is to preserve reels. The only reason we put Doc Watson out was sort of a good faith effort to say, ‘Look, we are doing it – here's a sample of what we're working on. Here's a sample of what's in the archive.'"

They are interested in putting out future releases if they can get past barriers that can make the process challenging. "We are absolutely committed, as Bear was, to artists' rights. The artists have a right to be a part of the process and to work with us. If they are opposed to a release, we don't release it. It's as simple as that."

Starfinder adds, "As a nonprofit, what we can assure the public is that we will preserve the entire archive, and it will be there for posterity. It will be available for future generations to dig through and experience. If we can get out music sooner, absolutely we are doing everything we can to do that, but our objective is to save this piece of American musical history and to make sure it doesn't evaporate."

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