Jerry Douglas

Best of the Sugar Hill Years

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For bluegrass and progressive music fans, dobro player Jerry Douglas is something of a force of musical nature, familiar from both his solo recordings and his work with others including Alison Krauss. Best of the Sugar Hill Years covers an 11-year span of time, from Slide Rule in 1992 to Lookout for Hope in 2002. The tracking of the album is also interesting to note because it doesn't follow chronological order. This probably allows more latitude in mixing up the various tempos and moods, and since Douglas sticks with instrumentals -- songs featuring the similar sounding dobro or Weissenborn and Kona guitars -- the material from different periods has a familiar ring (Douglas does utilize both dobro and lap steel on "Senia's Lamet."). Still, the material has a great deal of variety, from the quiet, easy flowing "A New Day Medley" to the jazzy "Cave Bop." There are four selections from Restless on the Farm (1998), which will probably just whet the listener's appetite for the remainder of this excellent album. On the original "Takarasaka," Douglas is joined by bassist Edgar Meyer and guitarist Russ Barenberg for an expansive, and often intense, intermingling of instrumental voices. Other standout moments include a take on the old rock standard "Hey Joe" with a vocal by Tim O'Brien. Taken at a brisk pace, Douglas and mandolinist O'Brien cut loose with quick, pithy runs, turning this favorite, strangely enough, into a fine bluegrass song. For progressive bluegrass fans unfamiliar with Douglas (shame on you!) and anyone who would like to view the arc of a fine dobro player's career, Best of the Sugar Hill Years is the place to start.

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