Doc Watson is one of the most important people in the history of American music. Clearly, his technical mastery is deep. I am not capable of commenting on it, but people who know revere the guy. That only is the start, however. Watson also chose great songs and had a clear, very American voice and overall presentation.
Here is an excerpt from a bio linked to from the site. It was written by Dan Miller and edited by Steve Carr:
However, Doc’s influence extends far beyond the small niche of guitar players who try to faithfully reproduce his guitar breaks because Doc Watson is not just a guitar player and singer – he is an American hero. To be recognized as a “national treasure” by President Jimmy Carter, honored with the National Medal of the Arts by President Bill Clinton, and given an honorary doctorate degree from the University of North Carolina calls for being more than a fine musician and entertainer. Doc Watson received these accolades not just for his talent, but for the honor, integrity, humility, grace, and dignity which he has displayed throughout his long and distinguished career. While there are many, many great guitar players and singers; there is only one Doc Watson.
What comes through most clearly for me when I watch Watson — besides how well he plays — is his authenticity. He looks the part. However, it seems to go beyond that. There is a quiet authority that he is tied to the music and what it represents about the American past.
I am not sure that the song above, “Freight Train Boogie,” is the most representative of Watson’s style. It’s great, though, and any YouTube video featuring old pictures of trains is hard to pass up.