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October 25, 1969 - Image 2

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Page Two



Saturday, October 25, 1969


Cooney O.K.

It is virtually impossible to
sit through one of Michael
Cooney's performances for the
first time and not enjoy it.
(One of those performances was
last night at the Ark.) He is the
physical embodiment of the
phrase "good, clean fun" and
besides that he is also a talent-
ed musician.
I mention his musical ability
as almost an afterthought be-
cause Cooney is not a tradition-
al singer of folk songs, he's a
minstrel--an updated minstrel
who is geared not to country
fairs but to the college coffee-
Cooney's act is polished to
"folky" perfection-it's round-
ed, it's simple, and it's casual.
In fact he's so casual that he
can even get away with playing
his concertina (a truncated
accordion) although he barely
knows enough notes on it to
play a scale.
However there's no denying
that Cooney plays a fine six-
string guitar, which is obviously
his main instrument, and he
also puts in time on the twelve-
string guitar, the banjo, and the
kazoo. The type of music that
he plays with his guitar varies
-quite a bit, from Russian army
songs to American blues, but
what he likes to do best is to
sing English ballads and sea
songs - and that's when he is
As a minstrel he is aways
trying to be funny, and he us-
ually succeeds, but just like a
lot of other comedians he
doesn't change his routine often
enough. To see Cooney tell and
sing his stories after you've
seen him once just isn't worth
it. I really wonder how many
years he's been carrying around
that little bottle of NuGrao
soda which hie uses in his
clever, commercial parody. (It's
only fair to mention that there
were a lot of enthusiastic new-
comers at the Ark last night or
else qiute a few rerun fanatics
-because his tired stories were
just as popular then as they
were last year.)
No matter how polished and
test-proven his act is, I don't
think that anybody would go
so far as to say that Cooney's
act is a put-on-he obviously is
quite serious about the whole
thing, and he has a genuine
folklorist's interest in the his-
tory and culture of the songs
that he sings-in fact you can
get a quick history lesson just
by listening to his anecdotes.
Of course there are still plen-
ty of originators around who
can sing the songs that Cooney
does, more authentically and
better than he can-- but that is
not the point, because as a min-
strel/entertainer his main con-
cern is to keep the people happy,
and his people are college peo-
ple, so he comes on in the only
way he can or should, which is
like the educated, witty young
man in blue jeans.
There just aren't any cultural
barriers that have to be broken
between Cooney and his audi-
ence (like the eerie barrier that
separates a senile, old black man
like Gary Davis from a white,
college crowd. Cooney uses his
advantage wisely and he gen-
erates an encompassing mood,
he demands a response, and the
audience always answers him.
and he has successfully created
what could be called a contem-
porary folk act-- a show that is
essentially based on the atmos-
phere of "right now" but which
delves into hist'orical songs to
demonstrate that mood.
It's undoubtedly a talent that
few people have, Michael Cooney
is one of those people that has
it, and everybody interested in
having a good time who hasn't
seen him should do it.

Doc Watson plucks music so
incredibly from his flat-top
guitar that you will never come
close to truly comprehending the
speed of his fingers and bril-
liance of his chord runs unless
you pack yourself into Canter-
bury House tonight and tomor-
When Doc and his 20-year-old
son Merle rip into Salty Dog
Blues -the first number last
night--notes from his guitar
spurt out over the room in an
endless stream, spiraling from
a thumping bass up to musical
doodles high on the frets--car-
eening back down, weaving in
and out.,
A boy next to me keeps ut-
tering Jesus Christ and hitting
his forehead with his hands in
utter disbelief.
Doc sings an amalgam of
Deep Gap folklore, tunes bor-
rowed from scratchy old records
and radios and songs he picks
up from friends passing through
the sleepy Appalachian holow
where he lives-giants in their
own right like Jimmy Driftwood,
Bill Hopkins, the Monroe Broth-
Cascading through flat-pick-
ing numbers, easing through
quiet blues, coaxing with his
deep, expansive bass - Doc
-wanders with you through the
hills and woods and dirt paths
where he lives half-the year,
the rest of his year on the road.
This is the Doe Watson who
breezes from town to town, cof-
feehouse to coffeehouse and
ecstatic concert to ectatic con-
cert on a legend. In just five
years since he was wooed away
from picking contests in Deep
Gap. and seated on stages with
solo spotlihts throughout the
country. he has dazzled crowds
and far surpassed his legend-
simply because legends are ver-
bal and to feel how incredible
the real Doc Watson is, you
must share the experience with
him--by watching and hearing
and feeling him.
Doe laughs softly through his
songs--and you've got to laugh
with him, so happy that a yarn-
spinning, 45-year-old bear of a
man from Deep Gap, North
Carolina can make sounds like
that come from a guitar,
And the music comes so ef-
fortlessly that it is almost hard
to appreciate the 40 years of
persistent work that has gone
into it. Do we get excited when
someone breathes? Doc Watson
has made the guitar into an-
other organism which needs no
coaxing, no straining-his brows
don't knit with concentration,
his shoulders don't sway with
tension, he doesn't fight against
the strings to pick his notes
so fast. Doc plays as if the mere
act of holding the guitar in his
two huge hands and breathing
will give birth to the marvelous
Doc - who has never seen
a guitar because he was blind
at birth - picked up his first
homemade banjo when he was
11, and started plucking guitars
two years later.
It wasn't until 1960 that
Ralph Rinzler, former mem-
ber of the Green Briar Moun-
tain Boys and nationally known
folk and country musicologist,
heard Doc by chance - a n d
tried to spirit him from the hol-
lows and hills of North Carolina
to the two-night stands in
smoked-up coffeehouses of the
urban North. "He convinced me
I had something to sell as a
solo player," Doc says - and
so I did my first concert in

March 1964, at a little school
in Lafayette, Indiana.
"They made a tape of that
first concert, and when I listen-
ed to it afterwards it was so

Watson superb




"'i -u'-.J-











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Neil Young: If you

don't like him, well


Neil Young is a singer, com-
poser, and guitarist who came
originally from Canada and now
lives out in California. People
seem to be attracted to the
mystery they think surrounds
his style not realizing that there
is no mystery at all which is,
in fact, a bit of a mystery.
Neil was a folksinger until he
and Stephen Stills joined forces
and created Buffalo Springfield,
a band which overal made im-
possibly intricate music seem as
delightful and fresh as milk in
the pail.
He composed several of tliat
group's best songs, played elec-
tric and acoustic guitar as good
as you can walk, and sang. His
songs, guitar work, and singing
combined then as now in per-
fect natural harmony to present
perhaps the most clearly focus-
ed artist recording today. In
other words, every facet of his
character is completely de-
lineated in EVERY move he
This, of course, means he is
open every second and hides
nothng, exposing himself to the
outside totally and thus creating
raw inspiration constantly,
He is so open that many peo-
ple think he is closed and con-
sider him a mystery which, in
fact, he is not. To reiterate, he
is the direct opposite of a mys-
tery: that which explains itself
at every second.
Neil went to work on his own
after the Springfield disbanded
in. June, 1968. He lived in the
mountains for eight months and
there wrote most of the mate-
rial for his first solo album, a
recording I allow is his best.
His second album was made
with Crazy Horse and is more
traditionally rock and roll
oriented but still remains de-
finitely Young.
Now besides extra work with
Crosby, Stills and Nash, he's at
work on his third album which
will include live material and
brought him to Canterbury
House last Thursday night.
He performs alone with only
his acoustic guitar which is an
The Michigan Daily, edited and man-'
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Class postage paid at Ann Arbor, Mich-
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audio shock after one is used
to the superb production of his
recordings. But the simplicity
of Neil's live performance im-
parts predictable intensity on
even his older material, which,
coupled with his strength gath-
ered from the focused energy
described earlier, drives people
He sang many of his familiar
songs mixed in with several new
ones, and talked. He said just
enough of what was true to
keep some people up all night,
Someone was standing outside
the back window getting a free
listen and Neil said "That's the
kind of thing I'd probably do,
Is it cold out there?"
Some people requested "the
Last Trip to Tulsa" which Neil
said he didn't like and was sor-
ry he'ddrecorded which wasn't
a "put down to you, I just don't
like it." He makes no excuses
but he is kind and therefore
His voice didn't comfort many
that night. Listeners were often
too busy worrying about what
would happen if lie didn't hit
the next, still higher note, a
distinct possibility, or tapping
their feet religiously to his
Again and again the point
was driven home to us that he
is free and strong and that he
can't quite understand why
everyone else isn't free and
strong to provide him with com-
pany. Sheer strength keeps him
alive because he has thrown off
Neil is pure, and lie knows
who his spiritual enemies are
and I hope that his particular
knowledge doesn't, of necessity,
lead to early, lonely death.
at 9:30--$100
MARK'S 605 E. Wiliam
The Daily
Sports Staff

terrible I erased it and threw it
Five years later, the British
Isles, Africa, and countless
towns and cities and campuses
throughout the United States
whoop for the best damn flat
picking guitarist alive.
Not all of the Watsons' reper-
toire is flat-picking -although
their flat-picking numbers are
by far the most astounding, like
"Streamline Cannonball." "I
thought the cannonball express
should go by like this," says
Doc, puffing once into the mike,
"so I thought we'd speed it up
a little."
When Doc sings Folsom Pris-
on, it is even more despairing
than when Johnny Cash does it
-and a mellow, pensive "There
is a Ship" shows the more ser-
ious, musical richness of Doc's
resonant bass voice.
Canterbury H o u s e sweated
with a crowd last night but it
was not so crowded that people
could hardly breathe or move.
That's how crowded it should be
-because if any less people
than possible see Doc Watson
and his son Merle, it's a damn
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