THE JERRY DOUGLAS BAND–led by 14-time Grammy Award-winning and three-time Country Music Association Musician of the YearJERRY DOUGLAS–are set to perform a headlining show at The Troubadour on Monday, November 13 during a stop on their current national U.S. tour in support of the recently released album, WHAT IF (Rounder Records). The band will bring their unique sound that decisively merges jazz inclinations with the bluegrass, country, blues, swing, rock, and soul to the history-drenched venue. Tickets available here.
Might you have interest in arranging a show preview or coming out to review?
WHAT IF, the debut studio album from THE JERRY DOUGLAS BAND, was released August 11 on a wave of praise (some standout reviews listed below).
On the album, THE JERRY DOUGLAS BANDgive “Hey Joe” a genre-bending arrangement, with the song’s video premiered by Rolling Stone.The song–in addition to a funky, soul-drenched arrangement of “2:19,” the Tom Waits’ gem–was performed recently alongside bassist Daniel Kimbro during a live session with Paste Magazine which can be viewedhere. Other WHAT IF standouts, such as the album’s title track and “Battle Stick,” were performed on the streets of New York City for “City Winery Cellar Sessions” which can been seen here.
Though Douglas has previously recorded several of the songs on WHAT IF, he turns them inside out here in bold new arrangements filled with unexpected elements. For example, in 1992 he covered “Hey Joe,” the Billy Roberts folk tune that became one of Jimi Hendrix’s most beloved blues-rockers, as an uptempo bluegrass song. Here, it’s recontextualized again with drums and fiddle–and horns instead of mandolin. He also radically reconfigures the album opener “Cavebop,” originally recorded in 2002. This time, it contains the horns he always wanted it to have. “The first time I recorded it, we just played it as fast as we possibly could,” says DOUGLAS. “This time, we made it a bit more sophisticated, with more of an arrangement. A lot of times, when you record songs, you don’t really know ’em yet. I got another shot at this one.”
As soon as he graduated from high school, DOUGLAS headed to Washington, D.C., to join Charlie Waller, Ricky Skaggs, and Doyle Lawson in the Country Gentlemen. He’s since performed in so many incarnations; at one point, he counted membership in eight bands–simultaneously. His recent history includes his band the Earls of Leicester–his version of the Flatt and Scruggs band–with Shawn Camp, Charlie Cushman, Jeff White, Johnny Warren, and Barry Bales; their self-titled 2014 debut earned Douglas his 14th Grammy. He’d already picked up eight with Alison Krauss & Union Station, with whom he’s closing out his second decade, and shared the Album of the Year win for O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the film soundtrack that helped replant traditional roots music in the modern American psyche.
SOME PRAISE FOR WHAT IF:
“Even after 14 Grammys, Jerry Douglas is still exploring unlikely musical pairings, as evidenced by the soul-and bluegrass-melding rendition of ‘Hey Joe…’ Jerry Douglas Band’s version opens with a furious Dobro lick before driving to the chorus with thick ascending horn lines that suggest Sixties Motown. While more traditional Country instrumentation of fiddle and trebly electric guitar both take instrumental flights of their own, saxophonist Jamel Mitchell, nephew of Al Green producer Willie Mitchell, blows a bluesy solo that offers a fresh sonic counterpoint.”
“… What If is a new beginning…it’s a freewheeling, musically sprawling set, perhaps more jazz and rock oriented than most would expect. Douglas writes most of the material yet works up innovative, substantially rearranged versions of ‘Hey Joe,’ best known by Hendrix’s cover but here given a caffeinated backwoods workup, and Tom Waits’ ‘2:19.’ The album’s centerpiece is its title track, a pensive progressive jazz/bluegrass fusion instrumental that allows the members to stretch out and shows both their creativity and talent. Ditto for the Douglas-Bela Fleck co-write ‘Freemantle,’ best described as bluegrass/jazz fusion, where Douglas’ Dobro interweaves with the horns and guitar in electrifying fashion. There’s enough fret-shredding in the opening five minute ‘Cave Bop’ (a re-recording of a Douglas original, first heard in 2002) with its high energy soloing and near free-jazz approach, and the closing ‘Hot Country 84.5′ that’s somewhat more laid back but just as musically challenging, to satisfy those looking for Douglas’ sizzling picking. But it’s the interaction of the instruments throughout, in particular the horns, that makes this a true band production…whether you come for hot licks, compositional diversity or to experience a talented band firing on all cylinders with like-minded players delving into a variety of styles they love, the superb What If has you covered. Hopefully this is the start of a long term ensemble, willing to test individual musical parameters and expand their roots based standards into new, dynamic and fresh frontiers.” (4 out of 5 stars)
“The new project merges jazz with bluegrass, country, blues, swing, rock, and soul on eleven tracks filled with bold arrangements and unexpected elements. One such song is Douglas’ rendering of Tom Waits’ ‘2:19.’ A funky revelation, the song drips with soul courtesy of some dynamic horn-work and Douglas’ bluesy vocals.”
“Ultimately, What If signals that after so many years and so many recordings, Douglas is still pushing the envelope and challenging himself to do new things with his music… The song [‘2:19’] is an interesting choice…essentially it is a blues tune and with Jerry Douglas and his talented band at the helm, the song is loaded with twang, horns, and some damn fine solo work. It stands out for the heavy dose of funk and soul the band whips up.”
“…Dobro master Jerry Douglas is pulling the strings, taking Billy Roberts’ classic composition [‘Hey Joe’] to new and exciting places…Douglas & Co. truly soup up the tune, adding plenty of bluegrass fire and thunder along the way.”
“While you may not associate the dobro or the lap steel with jazz, Jerry Douglas shows that it can swing harder than 75% of so called jazzers. He’s teamed with Daniel Kimbro/b, Doug Belote/dr, Christian Sedelmyer/vi, Mike Seal/g, Jamel Mitchell/sax and Vance Thompson/tp on a hard hitting bopper that has Douglas, Mitchell and Thompson sounding like its 52nd St in New York on the frenetic ‘CaveBop’ and the blues-burning ‘Unfolding.’ Douglas gets Hendrixy in groove and attitude with Mitchell’s frantic tenor sax on a riveting read of ‘Hey Joe’ and the band gets swampy on ‘2:19.’ As far as emotions go, Douglas makes the strings cry like Roy Orbison on a bel canto ‘The Last Wild Moor’ while getting down home on ‘Hot Country 84.5’ Fun on the frets!”
“Douglas has never been afraid of pushing labels aside in his search for arresting sounds and musical adventure. Like banjo-bashing Bella Fleck and mando-wizard Dave Grisman, he can and does turn his hand to almost anything that catches his fancy. With What If, he has again pushed the boat way out, far beyond the comfort zone of many, to deliver an album that has horns where banjo or mando might be expected, and at times his own gravel-strewn voice to produce an unexpectedly confident stab at the blues; one track, Tom Waits’ ‘2.19,’ is clearly a straightforward, powerfully produced traditional, twelve-bar blues number where his picking and singing both combine to remarkable effect, and his take on the old rock-blues standard ‘Hey Joe’ (his second recording of the track) is an up-tempo, driving tour de force. Add a few Celtic traditional sounding instrumental tracks to the mix and you have a release that is truly surprising, inspired, unexpected but beautifully done.”