Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Critic's pick: Jerry Douglas, 'Jerry Christmas'

By Walter Tunis Contributing Music Writer

There's a dilapidated country barn pictured on the front cover of Jerry Christmas, with a field of barren trees gracing the back. Both are covered in snow.
The brown and white tints to the photographs add to the scenery's unblemished Old World cast. But seeing Jerry Douglas's name inscribed in the upper corner of his new holiday album insures that this winter setting is going to give way to come very cool yule indeed.
If you've lived around Lexington for any length of time, then you were hip to the wildly progressive yet traditionally conscious string music Douglas fashioned for the dobro long before luminaries like Elvis Costello, Paul Simon, John Fogerty and, of course, Alison Krauss recruited him for recordings and national tours. So knowing his country and bluegrass heritage, as well as his ability to design daring new soundscapes for the wiry, wily dobro, heightens expectations for what Douglas can do with holiday music.
Needless to say, Jerry Christmas doesn't disappoint. On the opening The First Noel, Douglas creates a hearty, fireside feel with multiple dobros and very discreet colorings of lap steel guitar. O Holy Night operates with similarly hushed reverence, although the magic this time is the string harmony Douglas creates with violinist Luke Bulla and the bowed bass support of Todd Parks.
Douglas could cut an entire album at this mood and tempo and it would still be a winner. But ever since he played Lexington haunts over 30 years ago with J.D. Crowe, Douglas has been a crafty player, an instrumentalist as stylistically cunning as he is virtuosic. As such, Jerry Christmas enjoys smacking us in the face with a snowball or two.

Complete article.

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