Saturday, January 5, 2013


Jerry Douglas.  Traveler.
OneMusic, 2012.  Jerry Douglas:

I’ve enjoyed the music of dobro master Jerry Douglas for years.  I’ve even reviewed two other albums of his for another web site.  What I never paid attention to was the fact that he was born and grew up in Warren, Ohio, just down the road from Hiram.  This officially makes him eligible for inclusion here.  Strangely, his new release lists his birthplace as New Orleans on the fictional passport included as part of the booklet art.

Every album he makes is different from the previous ones in some significant way.  That is partly due to the eclectic nature of his musical tastes, from bluegrass to jazz, country to blues, and even rock.  He’s been a member of several bands, including the Country Gentlemen and the Bluegrass Cardinals, and done session work with nearly everybody.  This time out he brings nearly everybody in to help him out on a batch of mostly blues/bluegrass-oriented tunes.  Guests include Eric Clapton, Alison Krauss, Paul Simon, Dr. John, Keb’ Mo’, and Mumford & Sons, on songs by Leadbelly, Huey P. Smith, Chris Kenner, Paul Simon, and several originals.  In order to get all these folks he had to record the album in five different studios in New Orleans, Montreal, Nashville, and elsewhere.  Hence the title, Traveler.

The eleven tracks alternate between vocal and instrumental tunes, making for constant variety, and many of the guests appear on the vocal tracks.  Alison Krauss is the featured singer on “Frozen Field,” a slow ballad on which she does lovely work, with Douglas providing guitar backup.  Keb’ Mo’ takes the lead on the New Orleans-style “High Blood Pressure,” and Clapton sings backup on “Something You Got.”  Curiously, Douglas doesn’t rock out until the next track, the instrumental “Here We Are,” with Viktor Krauss and Omar Hakim, a tune seriously influenced by the Allman Brothers.  Hot shot musicians such as Dan Tyminski and Sam Bush accompany him on instrumental outings, all of which are sweet, delightful examples of Douglas at his best.  My personal favorites include “Gone to Fortingall,” which includes some banjo by Belá Fleck, and the Tyminski/Douglas team-up on “King Silkie.”

Every song here is a winner, and I enjoyed hearing them multiple times, with one exception.  Paul Simon’s “The Boxer” simply wasn’t very interesting, even though it was sung by Simon himself, with Mumford & Sons backing with Douglas.  Simon sounds like he phoned his performance in, and it just replicates the original for the most part.  Others may differ in their opinions, and I never much liked the song to begin with, so I may not be the best judge here.  All in all, this is a fine album, and anyone who has enjoyed the work of this fine musician ought to give it a listen.

Personnel:  Jerry Douglas (dobro, lap steel guitar, slide guitar, vocals), and guest musicians too numerous to mention (but already did up above).
Tracks:  On a Monday, Something You Got, So Here We Are, The Boxer, Duke and Cookie, High Blood Pressure, Gone to Fortingall, Right on Time, American Tune/Spain, Frozen Fields, King Silkie.

Jeff Wanser

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