'The Secret Revealed!'
Although his new album is titled The Best Kept Secret, multi-talented musician/composer/ producer Jerry Douglas' talents are widely known, both to his musical peers and to an enthusiastic audience that spans the musical spectrum.
In addition to being widely acknowledged as America's foremost master of the dobro, the twelve-time Grammy winner is a freewheeling, forward-thinking recording artist whose output draws upon a bottomless well of musical inspiration, incorporating elements of bluegrass, country, rock, jazz, blues and Celtic into his distinctive musical vision.
In addition to his solo releases, Douglas' stellar fretwork has graced over 1000 albums encompassing a dizzying range of musical styles. As a sideman, he's recorded with artists as diverse as Garth Brooks, Ray Charles, Emmylou Harris, Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton, Paul Simon, Ricky Skaggs, James Taylor, Randy Travis and Trisha Yearwood, as well as performing on the landmark O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack.
As a producer, he's overseen albums by such esteemed acts as the Del McCoury Band, Maura O'Connell, Jesse Winchester and the Nashville Bluegrass Band. He's been part of such notable groups as the Whites, J.D. Crowe and the New South, the Country Gentlemen and Strength in Numbers. Since 1998, he's been a key member of Alison Krauss and Union Station, touring extensively and playing on a series of platinum albums.
Chatting recently with Jerry, and noting that it had been stated in his press that he was '... the world's finest dobro player,' I first commented that that was indeed one grand title to stake a claim to, but did it sit well with him? "I think being called the best anything is an invitation to get shot at around the next curve. You’re only the best until the next one comes along. I am happy to be an influence to others, the same as Josh Graves was to me."
And being that you received 6 nominations for the International Bluegrass Music Awards for both your solo and Union Street work, not to mention being recognized as "Musician Of The Year" by the CMA, I was wondering at what point you can sit down at this media-focused time of your life and just be, well, Jerry?! "It’s hard to just be “me” right now. There is a good buzz about my band right now, so I’m very much involved in getting the word out even more. Take this little email interview for instance. My family is really due a good dose of Dad and husband. They are the ones I’m most concerned about. Along with the awards and recognition comes an absence in the place I really love being. Home. But I’m working on it."
For the Average Joe who may not have heard of you and was thinking of buying the new solo CD, how would you yourself describe your sound? "Exciting, accessable good music. The best parts of Bluegrass, Rock, and Jazz all rolled up into one big sound. Capable of taking you anywhere. How’s that for a sound bite?"
Based on all the above, your new album title 'The Best Kept Secret' is hardly that if it relates to your good self - but does it pertain to you and if not, then who?! "I was really basing the title on the assumption that by playing more lapsteel I would be disguising myself a little. The general attitude of the record leans more toward the rock side anyway. Wo besides that I really don’t have anything to add to that."
If there was one track on this new album that truly encapsulated Jerry Douglas at his musical and lyrical finest, which one would it be? "I would find it difficult to bring it all down to one song. There are so many pieces of me scattered all over the record that I am proud of. “Who’s Your Uncle” is a fast song that is one trademark of mine. It lost to another song of mine, “Unionhouse Branch”, from Lonely Runs Both Ways (AKUS) in the Grammys last year. I am probably happiest with one of the slower songs, “A Remark You Made” or “Sir Aly B”. I think the instrument is at it’s peak when it’s playing a slow melody."
OK, so being that you were presented with the National Heritage Fellowship back in 2004 I'm wondering if all these awards and such come as actual able-to-be-held awards? And if so, where do you put them all?! "Yes, you can actually hold most of them. My wife put a case in the den where all those things land. I try to avoid looking at it if possible."
Do you have a funny story to tell about your days travelling/working with Alison Krauss and her band, perhaps? "Once a few years ago, we were on tour and decided to give the driver a rest. We pulled over at a little strip mall in Illinois somewhere and went into a TJ Max, Alison’s favorite, to kill some time."
"I tired of it pretty soon and came out to find this little old lady pacing up and down the bus. When I asked if I could help her, she asked if it was the city bus. I replied that no, in fact it wasn’t. That it was full of musicians and they were mean people and she wouldn’t know any of them anyway. She said name one, so I thought she might recognize AK’s name so I said, “Alison Krauss”."
"She looked at me real funny and turning her little blue-haired head said, “Sows and Cows?” So I started calling all our tours ‘Sows and Cows 01…02, and so forth!"
If you could cover any '80s (possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song, which one would it be ... and why?! "I recorded with David Gates from Bread a few years ago. When I was about 13, I thought they were the coolest. He’s such a nice man, I’m not even going to dis him with what I think of those songs now."
Lastly, I like Penguins ... do you?! "I used to think I did until I saw that ‘March of The Penguins’ movie. At the end when they’re all standing around in their own @#$%^, I realized they were just another animal. How do they stay so clean though?!"
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
If you would like to win an AUTOGRAPHED copy of Jerry's new CD, just answer this easy question: After several years of playing with his dad's group the West Virginia Travelers, the then 17-year-old Douglas joined the pioneering newgrass band the Country Gentlemen in 1973. The following year, he became a member of which band; a band that also included future stars Ricky Skaggs and Tony Rice?!
Send me your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these great AUTOGRAPHED CDs! Just send us an e:mail here before November 15th with your answer and the subject title 'CONTEST: JERRY DOUGLAS SIGNED CDs' to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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