Three Pickers

The Three Pickers

4.0 3
by Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson, Ricky Skaggs

Released in conjunction with an episode of PBS's Great Performances, The Three Pickers is a boon for those who love to hear -- and see -- hot, masterful picking. Even without the visuals, though, this disc proves an unending delight, as these veterans put fresh spins on some time-tested material. Joined by the inimitable Earl Scruggs on mandolin and Ricky…  See more details below


Released in conjunction with an episode of PBS's Great Performances, The Three Pickers is a boon for those who love to hear -- and see -- hot, masterful picking. Even without the visuals, though, this disc proves an unending delight, as these veterans put fresh spins on some time-tested material. Joined by the inimitable Earl Scruggs on mandolin and Ricky Skaggs on mandolin, 80-year-old Doc Watson pretty much steals the show, not only with his impeccably fingerpicked guitar work but also with his amiable between-songs stage patter, which lends the affair a living room-concert intimacy. Staunch traditionalists all, the trio kick things off by sharing lead vocals and trading feisty licks on Bill Monroe's "Feast Here Tonight." On another Monroe gem, the tender-hearted "What Is a Home Without Love," Watson reminiscences the first time he heard the Monroe Brothers on his family's Gramophone player, ahead of some beautiful harmonizing with Skaggs on the choruses. "Earl's Breakdown" is an occasion for Scruggs to tear into a zigzagging banjo lead, with Skaggs in furious pursuit on mandolin and Watson bringing up the rear with a fleet-fingered bit of angular picking. Alison Krauss drops by to add some evocative fiddle commentary and pitches some chilling vocal harmony on the Carter Family's "Storms Are on the Ocean," as well as starring with Watson in a jaw-dropping a cappella reading of "Down in the Valley to Pray" (from O Brother Where Art Thou?). Gospel, breakdowns, traditional folk tales, traditional country -- no matter the style, these seasoned pros deliver the goods, and then some, when it comes to mating soulful expression to technical mastery.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Zac Johnson
Folk and bluegrass legends meet live on-stage on Rounder's bright and entertaining Three Pickers. The titular "pickers" are bluegrass banjo innovator Earl Scruggs, guitarist and folk purist Doc Watson, and relative newcomer (with only 45 years of musical experience under his belt) Ricky Skaggs on mandolin and guitar; they work most often as a trio but also perform with a wide variety of combos that were lucky enough to be invited on-stage. Recorded in Winston Salem, NC, in December 2002, the album reflects an honest interplay between the three main performers and the audience that seems lost in most concert experiences, and despite their age, Watson can still sing and Scruggs can still pick nearly as well as they did in their prime. Guest vocals and fiddle from the ubiquitous Alison Krauss liven up "The Storms Are on the Ocean" and the "one-sided prenuptial agreement" murder ballad "On the Banks of the Ohio," while Skaggs and his Kentucky Thunder inject some youthful exuberance into the evening during their set. The songs performed by "Earl Scruggs With Family and Friends" get a little loose around the edges, but the sweet and lowdown duo of Watson and his grandson Richard more than make up for it with their warm intimacy. All in all, it seems as though this was a spectacular exhibition of authentic folk music live on-stage, and the album lets that genuine honesty and warmth shine through perfectly.

Product Details

Release Date:
Rounder / Umgd

Related Subjects


  1. Feast Here Tonight  -  Skaggs
  2. What Would You Give in Exchange for Your Soul  -  Skaggs
  3. Spoken Introduction 1  -  Skaggs
  4. Who Will Sing for Me?  -  Skaggs
  5. Spoken Introduction 2  -  Skaggs
  6. Soldier's Joy  -  Skaggs
  7. Walk on Boy  -  Skaggs
  8. Daybreak Blues  -  Skaggs
  9. Don't Let Your Deal Go Down  -  Skaggs
  10. Pick Along  -  Skaggs
  11. Spoken Introduction 3  -  Skaggs
  12. What Is a Home Without Love?  -  Skaggs
  13. Doin' My Time
  14. Earl's Breakdown
  15. The Storms Are on the Ocean  -  Skaggs
  16. Down to the River to Pray
  17. The Banks of the Ohio  -  Skaggs
  18. Ridin' That Midnight Train  -  Kentucky Thunder
  19. Spoken Introduction 4
  20. Road to Spencer
  21. Katy Hill  -  Skaggs
  22. Foggy Mountain Top  -  Skaggs
  23. Roll in My Sweet Baby's Arms

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Earl Scruggs   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Banjo,Vocals
Doc Watson   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Vocals
Ricky Skaggs   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Banjo,Mandolin,Vocals
Alison Krauss   Fiddle,Vocals
John Jorgenson   Mandolin,Electric Guitar,Vocal Harmony
Glen Duncan   Fiddle,Vocal Harmony
Rob Ickes   Dobro
Jim Mills   Banjo
Martin Parker   Drums
Gary Scruggs   Electric Bass,Vocals
Darrin Vincent   Acoustic Guitar,Vocal Harmony
Richard Watson   Acoustic Guitar
Cody Kilby   Acoustic Guitar
Mark Fain   Acoustic Bass
Paul Brewster   Acoustic Guitar,Vocal Harmony
Andy Leftwich   Fiddle
Brad Davis   Acoustic Guitar,Vocal Harmony

Technical Credits

Earl Scruggs   Composer,Liner Notes
Ricky Skaggs   Composer,Producer,Quotes Researched & Compiled
Jimmie Rodgers   Composer
Mel Tillis   Composer
Doc Watson   Arranger,Liner Notes,Adaptation
John McEuen   Composer
Jimmie Skinner   Composer
Mother Maybelle Carter   Composer
Charles K. Harris   Composer
Jim Ed Brown   Director,Producer,Liner Notes
A.P. Carter   Composer
Sara Carter   Composer
Sarah Carter   Composer
John Ely   Composer
Brent King   Engineer
Carter Stanley   Composer
Wayne Walker   Composer
Steven Jurgensmeyer   Art Direction
Gladys Stacey   Composer
Louise Certain   Composer
Luke Wooten   Engineer
Public Domain   Composer
Traditional   Composer
Sarah Cullen   Producer
Jimmy Skinner   Composer
W. Walker   Composer
J. H. Carr   Composer
Maybelle Carter   Composer

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The Three Pickers 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
glauver More than 1 year ago
Often superstar concerts are a letdown but this one is an exception. Even the between songs chatter is good. Doc Watson seems to outshine both Ricky Skaggs and Earl Scruggs, probably because the bulk of the music is traditional. This is not to downgrade their performances, it just seems the set list played up his strengths. The modesty and decency of all three men shines through this recording and fans of folk, bluegrass, and old-time music should have this set in their collection.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Scruggs,Watson and Scaggs...what else can be said?Throw in Kentucky Thunder and Alison Krauss and you have a winner.Just an all around great CD.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a real showcase performance. As a novice banjo student, it's always inspiring to hear the great Earl Scruggs, but to hear him recall some of his childhood is a rare slice of history. You even get to hear him play guitar on track 4 (Who Will Sing for Me), which is a song I can't stop singing (you can ask my wife). Doc Watson's supersmooth guitar work and vocals are also a joy.