Jerry Douglas


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Jerry Douglas is probably the most famous dobro player in the world, which might sound like damning with faint praise, except that he's also one of the most in-demand session musicians in the world, period, as well as a constantly sought-after producer, and the man John Fogerty describes as "my favorite musician, and I'm including Otis Redding and Elvis in that." Although he remains attached to his bluegrass roots, his playing expanded far beyond the strictures of that genre decades ago, and his latest solo album demonstrates the degree to which he has both thoroughly digested and transcended the formulae that gave him his start. On "Bounce," which opens the album, you'd almost swear that there was a Scruggs-style banjo being picked in the background, but in fact it's Douglas himself playing arpeggiated counterpoint to mandolinist Sam Bush; on "Marriage Made in Hollywood" he takes a wonderful story-song by Paul Brady and Michael O'Keefe, beefs it up with a modern country arrangement and invites Travis Tritt to sing. "Sway Sur la Route Royale" is a gentle, New Orleans-style funeral march, and his rendition of the classic banjo showcase "Home Sweet Home" is a dream-team project featuring Earl Scruggs and guitarist Tony Rice in a trio arrangement with Douglas. The danger with this kind of stuff is always that when boundaries are disregarded, too often the musical conception starts to get fuzzy around the edges and then it dissipates into a pleasant cloud of sound. Douglas flirts with that tendency on one or two tracks, but for the most part he retains a sharp focus; not only is every track played with the virtuosity that now seems to flow from his hands almost without conscious intent, but almost every track is brilliant on its own terms and makes a coherent musical argument. Highly recommended.

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