Folks, if you made the mistake of buying the Cisco Heavy Vinyl reissue of this album that came out in the early 2000s, you are in for treat if you are able to grab one of our Hot Stamper pressings.
Instead of Doc and his band mates playing from behind a thick curtain at the back of your sound room, they can now be heard where they should have been all along: front and center between your speakers!
The difference between a truly outstanding vintage pressing and a modern mockery of analog could not be more striking.
We never got around to putting the Cisco pressing in our Hall of Shame (300+ strong!). There are just not enough hours in the day…
Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, tubey sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.).
Hot Stamper sound is rarely about the details of a given recording. In the case of this album, more than anything else a Hot Stamper must succeed at recreating a solid, palpable, real Doc Watson singing live in your listening room. The better copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played over the years can serve as a guide.
What the best sides of a vintage pressing of Home Again have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1967
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
Doc Watson – guitar, 12-string guitar, vocals, banjo, harmonica
Merle Watson – guitar
Russ Savakus – bass
Down In The Valley To Pray
The Old Man Below
A-Rovin’ On A Winter’s Night
Dill Pickle Rag
Sing Song Kitty
Froggie Went A-Courtin’
Rain Crow Bill
Doc Watson’s fourth Vanguard album, Home Again! is his most affecting folk-style record, with unexpectedly warm vocals matched to the quiet virtuosity of his playing. With only a couple of instrumentals on this 14-song collection, the rest features Watson performing lively, achingly beautiful renditions of popular folk standards (“Katie Morey,” “Georgie,” “Froggie Went A-Courtin’,” “Matty Groves”).
There isn’t a weak number here, although highlights include the haunting “Winter’s Night,” and “The F.F.V.,” the latter a grim but lively song in memory of a train wreck and a dead engineer. All are played with very imposing dexterity by Watson, joined by his son Merle and Russ Savakus on upright bass. This album was a great showcase for Watson’s voice — vaguely similar to but rougher-hewn than Burl Ives — which is often overlooked in the aura of his playing.
Here are some of our reviews and commentaries concerning the many Heavy Vinyl pressings we’ve played over the years, well over 200 at this stage of the game. Feel free to pick your poison.