A certain vision and drive is required to be a recording artist, and it takes a distinct lack of ego and talent for self-subjugation to be a session musician. An even greater strength of character is necessary to be a producer, to help artists realize their vision without heavy-handed personal involvement.
How then to explain the amazing success of dobroist Jerry Douglas in all three areas? Perhaps a unique ability to compartmentalize or maybe a touch of creative schizophrenia. Whatever it is, Douglas has it by the metric ton.
During the course of his 30-plus year career in Bluegrass, Douglas has released a dozen of his own albums (including his latest, last year’s Glide), which, considering his touring and session schedule, would be a fairly impressive number on its own.
But when one takes into account that Douglas’ work appears on well over 1600 albums by other artists — including production jobs for the likes of Del McCoury, Maura O’Connell and Jesse Winchester — the enormity of Douglas’ talent becomes plainly apparent. He has worked on more albums than many people actually own.
Since beginning his career in the ’70s, Douglas has worked with a variety of groups, including The Whites, J.D. Crowe and the New South, Strength in Numbers and The Country Gentlemen. But for the past 11 years, his primary focus has been Alison Krauss’ Union Station, whose sound has been largely defined by her voice and his instrumentation.
Douglas was also a major contributor to one of the biggest Bluegrass albums of all time, the soundtrack to the Coen brothers’ O Brother, Where Art Thou?, an album that sold in the millions with only the barest of radio airplay.
To see Jerry Douglas’ name on a Bluegrass album is like giving a consumer product the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval — when you see it, you know you’re getting top quality and the real deal.
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