By Todd Lavoie
Universally regarded as the finest dobro player in contemporary music, Jerry Douglas has long been the go-to source for the most evocative of resonator-guitar textures.
Starting off as a session musician back in the ’70s and ’80s – and having worked along the way with everyone from bluegrass pioneers David Grisman and Ricky Skaggs to country artists as varied as Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, and Trisha Yearwood – Douglas eventually launched a solo career which established him as one of the forerunners of the burgeoning “newgrass” movement. Proponents of the newgrass sound wanted to expand the boundaries of bluegrass by drawing from other traditional acoustic-based styles – particularly jazz – and the drive to rescue the dobro from pigeonholing was certainly understandable, given the perceived limitations many folks had up until that point.
The instrument has been frequently, almost predictably, used in film and television scores to introduce a Southern setting – often rural and run-down in nature – thanks to its ability to fashion moods from its lazy slides between notes. Sure, its “we’ll-get-there-when-we-do” slides and slow finger-pickings easily summon up images of sweltering afternoons under a merciless sun. But the dobro can do so much more – and Douglas has made it his mission to prove exactly that.