The acclaimed musician who plays St. Cecilia Music Center on Thursday has partnered with the likes of Billy Strings, Bela Fleck, Tommy Emmanuel and more as the leading player of his “ilk.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Jerry Douglas and Daniel Kimbro play St. Cecilia Music Center on Thursday. In a random drawing from Local Spins email subscribers who submitted entries via our “Amplified” newsletter, readers Josh Tandlich, Mike Gapp and Staci Chase each have won a pair of tickets to the 7:30 p.m. show. Scroll down for Jerry Douglas videos.
Support our coverage of
West Michigan's music scene
Take it from a 14-time Grammy Award-winning artist regarded by many as the top bluegrass Dobro player in the business: Michigan natives Billy Strings and Lindsay Lou form “the front leading edge of the new renaissance period.”
“Billy is sitting all out there by himself because he’s playing stadiums. He’s a brand at this point. It’s a place that most of us don’t make it to,” Jerry Douglas told Local Spins in a recent phone interview, referring to the bluegrass guitarist who has taken the world and genre by storm.
“It’s a phenomenon, but it’s something he’s worked really hard at. (Singer-songwriter) Lindsay Lou is graduating in that same class. They’re just bringing something into this kind of music that wasn’t there before. It’s a big family tree and they’re the new limb. We can all play together and we speak the same language. We just have a different dialect.”
Douglas, 67, the Dobro and lap steel virtuoso who’s performed, recorded and rubbed elbows with every legendary bluegrass artist imaginable along with a host of other players, was once part of that “new crop” of genre-changing, boundary-pushing musicians.
Since entering the scene in the 1970s, Douglas has appeared on a stunning multitude of albums – more than 1,600 of them – while sharing stages and studio space with the likes of Alison Krauss, Eric Clapton, Elvis Costello, John Hiatt, Garth Brooks, Dolly Parton, Tommy Emmanuel, Paul Simon and dozens more. He’s made guest appearances on albums by both Billy Strings and Lindsay Lou.
The Nashville-based Ohio native also has produced numerous recordings while racking up a bevy of awards, including being a 10-time winner of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s “Dobro Player of the Year” Award. The New York Times has dubbed him “Dobro’s matchless contemporary master.”
On Thursday, Douglas plays St. Cecilia Music Center’s Acoustic Café Folk Series, accompanied by upright bassist Daniel Kimbro. Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. show are $20-$50 and available online here. The show features a post-concert reception.
The performance is part of a limited duo tour, with Douglas noting they’ll be “sprinkling in stuff we don’t do” with the Jerry Douglas Band while also testing out material for the full band.
“It’s fun and it’s great to have just two of us because it’s a whole lot more personal than with a band for the audience,” he insisted. “They can learn more about us. It gives us a better rapport with the audience and it’s musically top-notch and full of personality.”
LOVING GRAND RAPIDS AND PREPARING TO PAY TRIBUTE TO EARL SCRUGGS
Douglas – who performed at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park last summer with guitarist Tommy Emmanuel – said he loves the Grand Rapids area, noting that longtime pal and renowned luthier/guitar maker Tim Scheerhorn resides in the area.
“I can’t wait to get back there again,” he said. “It’s one of my favorite places to play.”
Of course, the mini-tour is just part of Douglas’ robust performance and recording schedule. He’ll join Emmanuel again for a November-December tour across the country before hosting a special “Earl Scruggs’ 100th Birthday Celebration” on Jan. 6 at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium.
The show will pay tribute to the influential bluegrass banjoist, who died at 88 in 2012, with a host of star performers, said Douglas, the event’s musical director.
“We’ll go through Earl’s career from beginning to end on stage within three hours,” said Douglas, who recruited Bela Fleck, Del McCoury Band, Sam Bush, Sierra Hull and other notable musicians for the celebration.
“If it hadn’t been for Earl Scruggs, I wouldn’t be here. There would be no Billy Strings.”
Douglas also just finished recording and mixing a new band album slated for release next summer or fall. And he’ll head to the United Kingdom in February to continue co-directing the BBC’s “Transatlantic Sessions” featuring folk, bluegrass and country musicians.
As a veteran player, he said he’s learned that it’s critical to continue pushing forward while always having a clear picture of where one is headed before making a musical move.
“You just want to be happy with your musical abilities and the people that you’re hanging out with,” he said. “Make sure you’re learning something. Make a forward move. Don’t make a backward move.”
In that vein, Douglas said he’s tickled to be accepted as part of an emerging new bluegrass scene that’s incorporated other musical elements into its approach.
“I feel grateful and very lucky that this new demographic wants me. I used to be the youngest guy in the room, not anymore,” he joked.
“You have to grow with them. There are so many things that have changed … the whole conversation about music. We’re in a new universe, but I am able to travel between. I feel like a time traveler now: I can play with all of these different people and I’m one of the lucky ones who can.”
VIDEO: Jerry Douglas & Tommy Emmanuel, “Choctaw Hayride”
VIDEO: Jerry Douglas, “End of the World” (From Roots & Branches)
VIDEO: Jerry Douglas Band, “Gone to Fortingall”
VIDEO: John Hiatt with the Jerry Douglas Band, “All the Lilacs in Ohio”
Copyright 2023, Spins on Music LLC