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Jerry Douglas

Traveler – 2012 (eOne)

Reviewed by Larry Stephens

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CDs by Jerry Douglas

The resophonic guitar is certainly not exclusive to bluegrass - it's the least used of the six common bluegrass instruments - but to many people it's a Dobro© and it elicits a bluegrass connection. Mention Jerry Douglas' name and many who recognize him think of the multitude of great bluegrass associations he's had through the years, including many years with Union Station.

If you've had the pleasure of listening to his CDs, though, you know his solo recordings have, at most, a slender bluegrass thread running through them, and he's simply jumped genre with this new CD, giving us an excellent blues and pop. It features some great artists and writers and is simply good, laid back listening.

If you're a Dobro (as it's listed in the credits) fan, you have to hear American Tune/Spain. Douglas is alone with his instruments and illustrates why he is acknowledged as one of the very best pickers of the Dobro. And speaking of Union Station, Alison Krauss and Union Station give us Frozen Fields, featuring Krauss' ethereal voice with a story of loss and pain backed by tasteful instrumental support.

Perhaps the most surprising track is On A Monday. Written by Huddie Ledbetter with backup vocals by Del McCoury, the lead singer is none other than Douglas himself in his debut as a lead vocalist. After you hear this you'll wonder why he's stayed silent all these years. His baby is walking out and saying goodbye - in other words, a classic blues theme.

Another good blues number features a familiar voice, Eric Clapton, singing lead on Something You Got with Douglas and Sam Bush singing backup. Douglas traded the Dobro for a lap steel, and Clapton plays some of his signature licks. Paul Simons plays and sings on The Boxer. Douglas seems to be getting a kick out of singing as he's doing backup vocals with the members of Mumford & Sons playing various roles (Mumford sings lead). This is a long way from Jerusalem Ridge, but it sure is good listening.

He's included other well crafted instrumentals. Duke and Cookie, written and performed by Douglas and Bush; Gone To Fortingall, a fantastic instrumental written by Douglas that includes Béla Fleck and Viktor Krauss with Douglas on various instruments including a Raagini Tanpura; and, So Here We Are, composed and played by Douglas, Viktor Krauss and Omar Hakim, sounding like a song off a Dire Straits album.

He breaks out on King Silkie, a Douglas - Dan Tyminski number that drives hard with an all-star bluegrass lineup of Douglas, Tyminski, Bush, Charlie Cushman, Luke Bulla and Mike Bub. But the blues prevail and the CD closes out with High Blood Pressure, written by New Orleans bluesman Huey "Piano" Smith and sung by Keb' Mo'. That's a blues pedigree.

Jerry Douglas once again shows his mastery of the Dobro as well as other instruments, shows off his heretofore repressed singing talents, and has put together a superb cast of musicians, composers and singers. This is great stuff.