Although he's already appeared on more than 1,500 albums, it's hard to believe that dobro player Jerry Douglas is really "The Best Kept Secret." But that's the title he's given to his latest solo release.
Born in eastern Ohio, Jerry Douglas first picked up the dobro, or resonator guitar, at the age of 11. By 15, he was playing in his father's bluegrass band. By the time he reached his late-teens, Jerry Douglas had moved on to play with some of the top bluegrass bands, including The Country Gentlemen, J.D. Crowe and the New South, and The Whites. Soon, Jerry was known as the "go-to" guy for Nashville record producers who were looking for a different kind of steel guitar.
A dobro is shaped like a regular guitar. But it differs in that it has a metal plate on the top of the body. Holes are punched in this plate, and under the plate is a metal diaphragm with a bridge on it. The guitar strings run across that bridge, and when they are strummed, the sound goes down into the body of the guitar, and then is projected right back out, making it louder than the usual Spanish guitar.
The dobro also differs from a regular guitar in the way it is played. Dobro players rest the guitar across their knees, and play it with a slide, instead of picking individual strings.
Jerry Douglas, who acted as his own producer for this album, assembled a wonderful collection of performers on this CD. Guitarist Bill Frisell, mandolin player Sam Bush, and banjo star Bela Fleck all take part. So does John Fogarty, who sings on a track called "Swing Blues Number 1"
Any lingering thoughts that Jerry Douglas "just," or only, plays country music must finally be banished with the release of The Best Kept Secret. Those thoughts fly out the door with one listen to "She Makes Me Want To Sing," the album's opening track. It features Jerry Douglas playing lap steel alongside Derek Trucks electric guitar.
Since 1998, Jerry Douglas has toured the world with Alison Krauss and Union Station, and performed on her studio recordings. Alison returns the favor on The Best Kept Secret, lending her voice on a remake of the LTD hit, "Back in Love Again." This is different from what one usually hears from the singer. Jerry Douglas, speaking as a record producer, says trying something new gave both performers a chance to evolve.