By: Wesley Hodges
Whenever a master of his craft releases a piece of art, expectations are unbelievably high and curiosity is abound. Glide (released August 19 on Koch Record) exceeds such lofty expectations and builds on an already impressive armada of solo releases from the king of the dobro.
Ever the virtuoso and musical chameleon, one should expect Jerry Douglas to draw from a rich musical palette and utilize many of the legends he has befriended in the studio and on the road throughout his impressive career. Having recorded with a broad array of artists including Ray Charles, Garth Brooks, Allison Krauss, Paul Simon, Phish and Elvis Costello, among others, Glide features appearances by Travis Tritt, Rodney Crowell, Tony Rice, Earl Scruggs, and Sam Bush.
As expected, dobro master and bluegrass superstar Douglas' newest solo release hits the ground running with "Bounce," a fast-picking grassy tune that finds him immediately in his element, furiously showing his unparalleled dexterity and total command of the instrument that he has reinvented throughout his career. Written by buddies and fellow Bluegrass All-Stars Sam Bush and Edgar Meyer (with Douglas contributing the melody), "Bounce" gives each artist a chance to showcase their raw talent and build upon the lively, down home melody. An orchestral outro segues beautifully into the title track and is the first of many genre-crossing changes of pace on the record. "Glide" shows Douglas' appreciation for classic melodies and styles with a sound apt for a horseback ride on the open range. The Nashville resident shows his affinity for the sounds of Music Row on the third track by inviting Travis Tritt to sing on "Marriage Made in Hollywood," a tragic and familiar tale of the star struck Hollywood addict hell-bent on achieving fame and notoriety. Tritt's performance is impressive and the lyrics chillingly familiar with lines like "all you need to be a star is to die in open view." Like so many before, the antagonist of the story plunges to his death and is "buried in a media grave."
The ethereal and somber "Route Irish" follows, written after Douglas had viewed several days of coverage of the Iraq War. With an intense and stern melody, the tune serves as an apt follow-up to the tragic ending of "Marriage Made in Hollywood." Douglas captures Louisiana lightning in a bottle with his recreation of a New Orleans dirge in "Sway." It starts out slow and somber and then, like any French Quarter jazz funeral, a change occurs and a raucous party ensues as the song gains momentum and transforms into a festive Mardi Gras parade. "Unfolding" is a refined instrumental featuring iridescent string work and sprawling electric guitar arranged by Douglas and performed by Luke Bulla.
Nostalgia is abound in "A Long Hard Road (A Sharecropper's Dream)," a song featuring a wistful duet by Rodney Crowell and Carmella Ramsey as a lyrical tribute to simpler country times with a verse that ends, "'Cause those city lights ain't all that bright, compared to what it's like/ To see lightning bugs go dancin' in the rain." "Home Sweet Home" is an opportunity for Douglas to live out his musical dreams playing alongside Earl Scruggs on a bluegrass interpretation of the vocal stylings of the Louvin Brothers. "Two Small Cars in Rome" is a cinematic Western-tinged highway gallup featuring a steely foundation and Douglas' masterful dobro. Douglas takes all musical responsibilities on "Trouble on Alum," a Scottish medley that would make William Wallace proud. The album's final and most impressive instrumental, "Pushed Too Far," is a sublime finishing touch to yet another fine piece of work from Jerry Douglas that takes the listener on a journey through international dobro soundscapes. Glide is rich in its diversity and further proof as to why Douglas is an 11-time Grammy winner and the deserving recipient of CMA's 2007 Musician of the Year award.
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