w/ Alison Krauss & Union Station with Jerry Douglas, Ron Block
Sun. May 20
N. Charleston Performing Arts Center
5001 Coliseum Dr.
When Jerry Douglas met Alison Krauss at Béla Fleck's house in 1985, the 14-year-old girl played him songs written by his pal, guitarist Tony Rice. Douglas was awestruck by the velvet-voiced prodigy and immediately offered to play on her first album. "She thought of herself more as a fiddle player at that point, and we said, 'You've got another instrument there you can lean on a little more,'" says Douglas. They soon kicked off a partnership that has endured for two decades and a slew of accolades.
At only 35 years old, Krauss needs a separate bookcase just for her Grammy awards. She's won 20, more than any other female performer in history. Douglas himself has 12 and was introduced at this year's Merlefest as the world's best living dobro player. Most recently, they received the 2006 Best Country Album Grammy for Lonely Runs Both Ways, a strong signal to Nashville of the popular respect bluegrass and traditional music are garnering.
For their current tour, (which concludes in Charleston), Krauss, Douglas, and their band Union Station — Dan Tyminski on guitar, mandolin, and vocals; Ron Block on guitar, banjo, and vocals; Barry Bales on bass; and Larry Atamanuik on drums — have teamed up with Rice, putting together a show of his material that covers nearly all of his albums dating back to 1974.
Douglas and Rice spent much of the '70s playing together with J.D. Crowe and the New South, and have since collaborated nearly every year for recordings and live performances. Rice has suffered recent health problems, causing him to lose his voice. "I didn't think I'd ever get to play some of these songs again, but this is a perfect marriage of it all," says Douglas. "Alison and Dan (Tyminski) are singing, the guitar playing is there, we've got the whole sound. Tony's feeling better about music right now than he has in years."
Speaking on the phone from Pittsburgh before the first show of his second tour leg, it's evident that Douglas has highly anticipated this project. "I've been really lucky, really blessed to play with some of the greatest musicians on the planet," he says. "We're sort of in a golden age for bluegrass music right now."
He lamented the recent losses of Vassar Clements, Roy Husky, and Tony's brother Larry Rice, and sees their community of pickers and players as a family that keeps rolling on. "We're normal people, just pickin' and playing bluegrass."
When this particular bluegrass dream team rolls into town next Sunday, they'll be finishing up a week-long jaunt down the East Coast. Douglas is vacationing here with his family later in the summer, and is excited to return to a city he remembers as "having a mist hanging in the air." It'll be humid, no doubt, and inside the Performing Arts Center, the band of fine pickers will undoubtedly provide the heat.