For those that think that quality/creative fusion is a thing of the past, here your wake-up call. To be sure, this dobro-playing Jerry Douglas guy represents the acoustic side of fusion, a style oft-times referred to as New Acoustic Music, newgrass, jazzgrass or progressive bluegrass. [Note: for those not familiar, a dobro is a type of guitar that is played slide-style while laid flat.] Though Mr. Douglas has a thorough grounding in bluegrass and country music, he also has strong jazz chops - no dilettante, he. Matter of fact, fans of jazz guitarist Bill Frisell will recognize the title tune as a Frisell composition, and may recall that Douglas was all over Frisell’s groundbreaking Nashville platter. Actually, country music and jazz haven’t always been seemingly at odds - Gary Burton and Bill Frisell have recorded albums in Nashville; Sonny Rollins recorded an album of trad cowboy tunes, Way Out West
; guitarists Les Paul and Herb Ellis have a definite country element in their playing; Ray Charles and guitarist Hank Garland have played both musics and bluegrass/country fiddler Vassar Clements recorded a fine jazz jam-session disc w/ John Abercrombie, Dave Holland and Jimmy Cobb, Once In A While.
Douglas comes on like a gospel-drenched Ralph Towner on the beautiful "In The Sweet By & By," and sings bittersweet-ly like a saxophonist on the title track, on which Byron House plays some rippling Holland-ish bass and guitar whizkid Trey Anastasio get to play some quietly cosmic Jerry Garcia-meets-John McLaughlin passages. On a couple of tracks, there’s some sweet Wayne Shorter-ish sax from Bela Fleck reedperson Jeff Coffin, too. This music is driving, sturdily rhythmic post-bop jazz with down-home bluegrass undertones. While a couple of tracks early in the program feature some indulgences in slick, super-dazzling soloing, but for the most part this is a sterling sample of acoustic fusion - imagine mid-70s Weather Report with "bluegrass instrumentation" (guitar, mandolin, fiddle, bass) instead of saxophone, keyboards and electric bass. Again, fusion-heads who seek style AND substance and without commercial compromise and/or like acoustic sounds - wake up and smell the fresh roast.