For his latest album, Traveler, dobro master Jerry Douglas decided to try something different — record on the road.
"It was an exciting way to make a record," Douglas says. After months of being back on the road in support of the album, Douglas and his band wind down with an appearance at 3rd & Lindsley.
With Traveler, Douglas wanted to make a "guest stars" record, but he made the decision to turn the usual recording process around and go to the musicians rather than have them come to him. "It still had that thread of me," he says, "no matter where we went."
The thread of Douglas' unique style has run throughout his career as the most acclaimed dobro player in the world. He's shared in 13 Grammy awards and received the Musician of the Year Award from the Country Music Association three times. That's just the start of his many accolades, and with credits on more than 2,000 recordings, it was an easy task finding famous friends to work on the album.
After recruiting Russ Titelman as producer, Douglas traveled to New Orleans. There they recorded four tracks with NOLA musicians, including two with the legendary Dr. John. "After that," Douglas says, "we started chasing around the world, getting people and playing — going to the U.K., then up to New York, Connecticut, Montreal and then finishing it here in Nashville."
Along the way the pair picked up guest vocalists — Eric Clapton, Marc Cohn, Keb' Mo', Alison Krauss, Mumford & Sons and Paul Simon — and legendary musicians including Sam Bush, Béla Fleck, Omar Hakim, Viktor Krauss and Del McCoury, among others. While working in so many locations with an ever-changing cast might sound disjointed, Douglas says the end result was just the opposite.
"It made [the record] more cohesive," Douglas says. "I liked that it wasn't in one place where over time you might have people running in and out that had nothing to do with the record. If people were there, they were there to work on the record. Everybody was thinking about the same thing."
But of course, working with so many guest vocalists raises the question: What do you do in concert? For Douglas, Traveler also meant the start of a new journey with his lead vocal debut on a cover of the Leadbelly classic "On a Monday."
"I just discovered it's fun to sing," Douglas says. "I'd still rather play the dobro, but I'm not so afraid of it as before. It's an instrument I'd never tapped into. I always sang parts behind people, but I've been working with some of the greatest singers in the world, so there was never a need for me to sing lead."
Even though Douglas has found his voice and is singing several songs live, he still recognizes his limitations.
"Since we've been on tour, I've had one person ask me to do 'The Boxer,' " Douglas says. The song is featured on Traveler with vocals by Marcus Mumford and the song's author, Paul Simon. "I'm not going to sing it because I'm not going to follow Marcus or Paul. I said, 'If they show up, we'll do it.' "
So, will there be any famous guest stars at Sunday's show?
"I haven't worked that one out yet, but it is possible," Douglas says. "You never know. There are a lot of people in this town that like to get up on a stage and play."
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