Jerry Douglas' 'Lookout For Hope'

Country music session player extraordinaire Jerry Douglas, who's played on hundreds of albums, talks about his new solo disc, "Lookout for Hope," in almost self-analytical terms. "Playing on so many r

Country music session player extraordinaire Jerry Douglas, who's played on hundreds of albums, talks about his new solo disc, "Lookout for Hope," in almost self-analytical terms. "Playing on so many records [by other people], it gets rough figuring out who you are," he says. But "Lookout for Hope," which Sugar Hill releases May 7, is a big step in cutting down on the dobro master's confusion.

"I've kind of quit doing sessions," says Douglas, disgruntled by the current state of country music and unconcerned about forfeiting an easy double-scale pay. "At the end of the day, everything you've done that day, every note you play, goes into someone else's column, and you have a faceless identity. I want to change that and do something for myself. I want people to think of me as an artist and not just a session guy."

Douglas, of course, has been playing both roles for years. He added a third musical personality in 1998, when he joined up with Alison Krauss + Union Station. And while he'll continue with Krauss, he's more focused now on his own album and band.

So it's farewell to "bulls*** sessions and other things that interrupt," Douglas continues, emphasizing that with "Lookout for Hope" comes "my statement of what kind of music I wanted to play and not a mish-mash of something I felt like today or yesterday. A thread goes through the record, and that thread is me."

"I tried to think of what to call it, 'country-punk-disco,' or something. But it's more like 'new acoustic,'" Douglas adds. "That's a vague term, but it's what I'm doing: bluegrass music with a rock'n'roll/jazz attitude. I've been doing it long enough to know what it really is, but now I want to come out with a band where everybody loves to play and bring something to the table, much in the way Bela [Fleck] has done. But the difference between us is I have another life with Alison's band that I want to keep alive."

Douglas' band will comprise either Krauss' brother Viktor on bass or Glenn Worf if Krauss, who plays in Lyle Lovett's band, is unavailable. Bryan Sutton is on guitar, Gabe Witcher is on fiddle, and Larry Atamanuik, who also plays with Union Station, is on drums. Douglas says they perform "the stuff I play during sound check or just by myself, [stuff] that I can't interject into everything I do with Alison or on sessions. I've touched on it a couple times in different records but have never really capitalized on it until this one."

So on "Patrick Meets the Brickbats" -- one of six Douglas compositions on the album -- "there's lots of notes but different changes and time signatures," he says, comparing it to the theme to "The Flintstones." "I get bored, so I like to change time signatures and turn [the] four-four [beat] sideways." Another original, "Cave Bop," was written "really slow, then played really fast like a bop tune, bluegrass with the same kind of attitude."

While most of the tracks are instrumental, frequent Douglas album guest Maura O'Connell sings on Boo Hewerdine and Annette Bjergfeldt's "Footsteps Fall," and James Taylor shines on Hugh Prestwood's "The Suit."

As of late, Douglas has taken a star turn through the Down From the Mountain concert tour, his presence on five recordings that won Grammy Awards in March, and his appearances on videos with Krauss, Dolly Parton, and Earl Scruggs, as well as special CMT and PBS bluegrass programs.

Touring will be a "hit hard and run" affair, says Douglas, who will start performing with his band May 29 in the Midwest, then balance his schedule between his band's and Krauss' touring and recording commitments, along with Down from the Mountain summer dates.

Excerpted from the May 4, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the members section.

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