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Jerry Douglas
Glide
Review By Steven Stone
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  Fans may argue whether Jerry Douglas is the greatest dobro player of all time, but few will dispute that he is the finest player of his generation. Dobro pioneers such as Bashful Brother Oswald and Mike Auldridge could swing, but Jerry Douglas is the first dobro player who can shred, slide, and shimmy.

Douglas' nickname, "Flux," stems from his ability to play anything, anytime, with anyone. His professional career began in 1975 playing with J.D. Crowe and the New South, with like-minded young pickers including Tony Rice and Ricky Skaggs. In 1977 Douglas joined Skaggs in the band Boone Creek. In a single year they released two stellar albums. Next Douglas joined legendary mandolinist Buck White for three albums. By the early 80's Douglas was a "first call" session player in Nashville, but he also continued to tour and record with The Bluegrass Album Band, which included his old boss J.D. Crowe along with flatpicking phenom Tony Rice. The Bluegrass Album Band released six CDs, the last one coming in 1996. Before then, Douglas was stretching out in the late 80's from bluegrass and country sessions into an entirely new musical genre that has come to be known as "new acoustic music." His Under the Wire album included other young innovators such as bassist Edgar Meyer, banjo whizz Bela Fleck, and guitarist Russ Barenberg. The live Album, The Telluride Sessions, featured the same musicians in a live improvisational setting. His 1993 trio collaboration with Barenberg and Meyer, Hop Skip and Wobble was among the most influential acoustic albums of that decade.

During the last thirty years Douglas has also had time to release eleven "solo" albums where he continued to stretch the definitions and limits of acoustic music. Bluegrass purists may not have embraced all these CDs, but almost everyone, no matter how traditionally oriented, has at least one Alison Krauss and Union Station CD, which have all featured Douglas' scintillating dobro solos.

This brings us to Glide, the twelfth solo release in Douglas' musical portfolio. Labeling Glide as merely more of the same already places it into elite musical company. But Glide demonstrates the full expanse of Douglas' musical breadth. Of course longtime collaborators Tony Rice, Edgar Meyer, and Sam Bush contribute to the effort, but Glide also includes five-string banjo pioneer Earl Scruggs, singer/songwriter Rodney Crowell, and country vocalist Travis Tritt. Some tunes, such as the title cut, are almost new age with gentle rhythms and pellucid melody lines. Others like "Sway" are reminiscent of Celtic-influenced material of Hop Skip and Wobble. The Earl Scruggs cut reminds listeners of Douglas' bluegrass roots. But whether it's Travis Tritt's take on "A Marriage Made in Hollywood" or the Douglas' original  "Trouble on Alum" where Douglas plays every instrument, Douglas' penchant for euphonic melodic invention shines through. After thirty plus years of musical exploration Jerry Douglas still maintains his reverence for the melody. Even at his most experimental he never falls into the chops and changes trap that ensnares many jazz players.

Longtime Jerry Douglas fans don't need this or any other positive review to encourage them to add Glide to their already prodigious Jerry Douglas collection. But for anyone new to Douglas music, Glide makes a fine shallow spot to dip their toes into his rich musical stream. Start here, and then work your ways backwards. You won't find a single clinker in Jerry Douglas' whole discography.

 

 

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