Jerry Douglas is widely renowned as perhaps the finest Dobro player in contemporary acoustic music. His main foundation is bluegrass, but Douglas is an eclectic whose tastes run toward jazz, blues, folk, and straight-ahead country as well, and he's equally capable of appealing to bluegrass aficionados or new agers with a taste for instrumental roots music. What's more, his progressive sensibility as a composer has earned him comparisons to likeminded virtuosos Béla Fleck and David Grisman. Douglas was born in Warren, Ohio in 1956, and began playing the Dobro at age eight with encouragement from his father, who was also a bluegrass musician. By his teen years, Douglas was already a member of his father's band, and his playing was especially influenced by Josh Graves of Flatt & Scruggs' Foggy Mountain Boys. Douglas was discovered at a festival by the Country Gentlemen, who took him on tour with them for the rest of the summer and later brought him into the recording studio. From there, Douglas established himself as a hugely in-demand session musician; during the latter half of the '70s, he worked with the likes of J.D. Crowe & the New South, David Grisman, Ricky Skaggs, Doyle Lawson, and Tony Rice. Additionally, Douglas released his debut album, Fluxology, on Rounder in 1979; he followed it three years later with Fluxedo, which like its predecessor stuck relatively close to traditional (albeit sometimes jazzy) bluegrass.
During the early '80s, Douglas continued his session career with even greater success, adding Emmylou Harris, Béla Fleck, the Whites, and Peter Rowan to his list of credits. He returned to his solo career with 1986's Under the Wire on Sugar Hill, which reflected his interest in the progressive new-acoustic (or "newgrass") movement. He subsequently signed with MCA, where he issued Changing Channels (1987) and the smoother, strongly jazz-influenced Plant Early (1989). More session work for increasingly prominent artists brought him into the '90s, with names like Alison Krauss, Del McCoury, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Randy Travis, Clint Black, Patty Loveless, Suzy Bogguss, Reba McEntire, Kathy Mattea, and Dolly Parton on his résumé. In 1992, he returned to Sugar Hill for the more traditional bluegrass outing Slide Rule, which many critics ranked among his finest recordings. The following year brought the all-instrumental Skip, Hop & Wobble, a trio recording with Russ Barenberg and Edgar Meyer. In 1994, Douglas contributed to the Grammy-winning compilation Great Dobro Sessions, and cut a duo album with Peter Rowan, Yonder, in 1996. True to its title, 1998's Restless on the Farm was a return to Douglas' freewheeling eclecticism, which continued on 2002's Lookout for Hope. Best Kept Secret arrived in September of 2005. In 2008 he recorded the musically adventurous Glide, and followed it with a Christmas album entitled Jerry Christmas in 2009. In 2010 he contributed to Southern Filibuster: The Songs of Tut Taylor, a various-artists compilation acknowledging the far-reaching influence of Taylor on the modern Dobro sound. ~ Steve Huey, Rovi