Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#726 in the Series) is Jerry Douglas, Traveler
I’m guessing that some of you may have never heard of Jerry Douglas, but as a music lover he has been a part of your acoustic life for more than a decade. As THE premier slide dobro player in the business today and a genre spanning artist, he seamlessly flows between Pop, Country, Folk, Bluegrass, and Indie Rock without ever breaking a sweat.
Jerry Douglas is to the dobro what Zamfir is to the pan flute. Supporting the likes of Ricky Skaggs, Emmylou Harris, Elvis Costello, Paul Simon, and even more contemporary artists including his new BFF’s Mumford and Sons, he has lent his melodic tone and classic finger picking to more albums that are in your album collection right now than you could possibly think of. And now with his latest release Traveler, he has assembled a few of his friends to produce an album that showcases the banjo-like, sometimes pedal steel whine of the dobro, with an excellent selection of songs and strong passionate vocals courtesy of his A-list guest stars that include Mumford and Sons, Eric Clapton, Keb ‘Mo, Marc Cohn, and Alison Krauss.
Douglas himself opens up the proceedings with a vocal turn of his own on “On A Monday,” a rollicking number that while it does take you cosmically back to the Appalachian Mountains it has a fresh feel to it with the dobro king picking the hell out of his signature instrument. The vocals he belts out are surprisingly strong and make you wonder why he does not take a solo turn more often.
“Something You Want” is a slower paced affair that features Eric Clapton. The background trumpet and the more delicately placed dobro interludes, make for an elegant song and features one of the stronger Clapton vocals I have heard in quite some time.
The third song is “So Here We Are,” one of five instrumental numbers on the record. The song has a present day, jazzy, Jeff Beck vibe to it and really shows the versatility Jerry can display with his instrument. The only real fault I have with his album is that in my mind, nothing would have artistically suffered if he had reduced the instrumentals down to three instead of five. “American Tune/Spain” is a delicate and beautiful tune and is a must hear but “Gone to Fortingalll” and the closer “King Silkie” seem to be filler-type songs, and it would have made for a better, more concise album replacing them with another Jerry Douglas vocal tagged on the end, sort of a Jerry Douglas vocal sandwich.
The featured song on this record is the pairing with Mumford and Sons on the Paul Simon number, “The Boxer.” Everything about this track, from the opening Marcus Mumford vocal intro to the flowing harmonies to the exquisite finger picking is spine tingling and quite mind numbing. This is by far the best version of this song I have ever heard including the original.
“High Blood Pressure” features the always uniquely bluesy ‘Keb Mo on a song that has a New Orleans by way of The Andrews Sisters (the girl group interlude is terrific) vibe to it, strange but true. It is a real artistic departure in the middle of the song but quite good. On “Frozen Fields,” Douglass partners with his own personal bluegrass muse, Alison Krauss, on a beautiful meandering paced number that shows two friends and artists at the top of their game. Marc Cohn adds vocals to “Right on Time” which was co-written by former NRBQ, and current World Famous Headliners guitarist Al Anderson.
Much like a banjo or a bagpipe, a little dobro music can go a long way and bring someone to “bang your head against the wall” territory. This is very much not the case with the instrument in the hands of such a capable musician that can create such varied musical landscapes from just one set of strings. The pairings on Traveler are unique, and you can tell they were lovingly chosen to complement the project. If my only complaint is that the album is two instrumental numbers too long, then there really is no complaint.
I am not sure if this album will make me want to quit my job, learn how to play the dobro and go on tour with Alison Krause, but about half way through this excellent album I was certainly starting to seriously consider the option.
- On a Monday (Huddie Ledbetter) 4:07
- Something You Got (Chris Kenner) feat. Eric Clapton 4:23
- So Here We Are (Jerry Douglas / Omar Hakim / Viktor Krauss) 5:48
- The Boxer (Paul Simon) feat. Paul Simon, Mumford & Sons 4:05
- Duke and Cookie (Sam Bush / Jerry Douglas) 1:51
- High Blood Pressure (Huey P. Smith) feat. Keb’ Mo’ 3:53
- Gone to Fortingall (Jerry Douglas) 4:34
- Right on Time (Al Anderson / Sharon Vaughn) feat. Marc Cohn 4:01
- American Tune/Spain (Chick Corea / Joaquín Rodrigo / Paul Simon) 4:58
- Frozen Fields (Jeff Black / Jon Randall Stewart) feat. Alison Krauss, Alison Krauss & Union Station 3:45
- King Silkie (Jerry Douglas / Dan Tyminski) 3:41
- Jerry Douglas – Dobro, Lap Steel Guitar, Slide Guitar, Vocals
- Barry Bales – Bass
- Ron Block – Guitar
- Wendell Brunious – Trumpet
- Mike Bub – Bass
- Luke Bulla – Fiddle
- Sam Bush – Mandolin, Vocal Harmony
- Sarah Buston – Vocal Harmony
- Washboard Chaz – Washboard
- Eric Clapton – Guitar, Vocals
- Jon Cleary – Fender Rhodes, Guitar,Piano
- Marc Cohn – Vocals
- Charlie Cushman – Banjo
- Dr. John – Piano
- Ted Dwane – Bass, Vocals
- Béla Fleck – Banjo
- Aaron Fletcher – Saxophone
- Omar Hakim – Drums, Percussion
- Keb’ Mo’ – Vocals
- Alison Krauss – Violin, Vocals
- Viktor Krauss – Bass
- Rex Leary – Saxophone
- Ben Lovett – Harmonium, Percussion, Piano, Vocals
- Winston Marshall – Banjo, Vocals
- Del McCoury – Vocal Harmony
- Marcus Mumford – Guitar, Mandolin, Percussion
- Matt Perrine – Bass
- Paul Simon – Bells, Guitar, Percussion, Vocals
- Jeff Taylor – Accordion, Harmonium
- David Torkanowsky – Hammond B3
- Dan Tyminski – Guitar
You can hear most of the album on a playlist below, enjoy!
Here’s a fun bonus, Jerry and the lovely Alison Krauss paying tribute to James Taylor a few years back.
Here’s Jerry performing ”On Monday” from a recent David Letterman show. Sorry about the ad, but this is from Dave’s site and it’s part of the package.