I considered the 2002 release “Lookout For Hope” by Jerry Douglas to be an acoustic masterpiece, which found his squareneck Dobro stretching out on an array of original compositions highlighted by guest artists that made every cut special. Douglas followed that up with 2005’s “Best Kept Secret” where he got his electric ya yas out by plugging in his lap steel to create various electronic affects, jam with the exceptional slide guitarist Derek Trucks and more. Douglas’ new album is called Glide and it is the best of both worlds. After listening to it, I realized that this is the album I’ve wanted him to make for a while now.
When you are an artist of the caliber of Jerry Douglas, considered the best squareneck Dobro player in the world, you tend to jam with other musicians of a high level. The first cut on the album, “Bounce,” digs right into that scenario with Douglas jamming with Sam Bush and Edgar Meyer, two long time collaborators. Bush and Meyer came up with the basic structure of the song and Douglas came in after the fact to create the melody.
The next song is the title track, an instrumental inspired by, as Douglas puts it, “those big fat cars that were made in the 1930’s, 40’s and early 50’s that had big round fenders with cool names like Turbo Glide and Dynamo.” If there is such a thing as art deco music, this is it – smooth and beautiful, featuring exceptional fiddle work by Luke Bulla. Another instrumental song in this vein is “Two Small Cars In Rome,” a tune that features Douglas along with Todd Parks on bass, Guthrie Trapp on guitar, Doug Belote on drums and a guest appearance by one of the best steel guitarists in the business, the legendary Lloyd Green.
The next cut finds Travis Tritt turning in one of his most soulful performances ever on the Paul Brady and Michael O’Keefe-penned tale of the lethality of fame, “A Marriage Made In Hollywood.” Beginning with the atmospheric keyboard work of Dennis Wage, this cautionary tale with a majestic melody works in a big way, a song you will go back to over and over again. Guitarist extraordinaire Tony Rice appears twice on the album; on “Long Hard Road (The Sharecroppers Dream),” a song written and sung wonderfully by Rodney Crowell, and “Home Sweet Home,” a trio with Douglas and the great Earl Scruggs who has his banjo up front and in the microphone just like in the old Flatt and Scruggs days. “Sway Sur La Rue” is a tribute to the music of New Orleans. Recorded in Louisiana with former Dirty Dozen Brass Band great Kirk Joseph on sousaphone along with Craig Klein on trombone, Charlie Fardella on trumpet, Orange Kellin on clarinet, David Torkanowsky on piano, Parks on bass, Louisiana native Belote on drums and Douglas on the Dobro, it is a rollicking and fitting tribute to the music of the Crescent City.
Two truly exceptional tunes on this album feature Douglas and the members of his touring group at the time of this recording, the aforementioned Trapp, Parks, Belote (who has since left the band) and Bulla. “Route Irish” is a song named after the dangerous road in Iraq from Baghdad to the airport, a name Douglas learned from a friend who is an Iraq War veteran. Here Douglas plays both Dobro and lap steel, and this layered and dynamic jam reflects the intensity of the subject matter. “Unfolding” is an equally intense instrumental, complicated yet inventive, melodic and flowing, with wonderful solos by Douglas on Dobro, Bulla on fiddle, Parks bowing the bass, and Trapp letting it rip on guitar.
The album closes with a new performance of a song Douglas wrote with friend and guitarist Russ Barenberg called “Pushed Too Far.” The tune originally appeared on a project that is no longer in print, so it is resurrected here with Douglas, Parks, Belote and Bulla along for the ride as well as Chris Eldridge, guitarist for Chris Thile’s new band The Punch Brothers. This song, as well as the rest of this excellent album, is classic Jerry Douglas fare, music that is challenging yet not a relentless music lesson, soulful and fun sounds that are a big step above the usual ‘stuff’ being released in the music world today.