- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 2, 2004

Words? We don’t need no stinkin’ words. At the Birchmere Friday night, Dobro master Jerry Douglas treated open-minded bluegrass fans to a two-hour-plus set of gracefully constructed instrumental pieces enriched with ideas plucked from jazz, blues and world music.

In the mountain-music tradition in which each player passes on the lead-solo baton, Mr. Douglas traded the spotlight with flat-picking champion Mark Cosgrove, fiddler Gabe Witcher and upright-bassist Garrett Jones.

During down moments, Mr. Douglas seemed to enjoy his band mates’ talents as much as the audience. Not even a food server who disconnected a cable from a stage outlet during several trips to and from the kitchen could shake his smiling demeanor.

A part-time sideman to folk and bluegrass greats such as Emmylou Harris and, more recently, Alison Krauss, Mr. Douglas is a clever composer in his own right.

Inspiration, he explained, can strike at any time: during a trip accompanied by sheep (“From Ankara to Izmir”); bedtime stories with his son (“The Wild Rumpus”); run-ins with giant beetles in India (“Big Bug Shuffle”); a handshake with Flecktones “drumitarist” Roy Wooten (“Futureman”); discovery of his wife’s proper name (“Senia’s Lament”).

The musically adventurous Mr. Douglas led his band through long workouts on the Middle Eastern-sounding “Lookout for Hope” (written by Bill Frisell) and the jazz-infused “Cave Bop.”

To placate bluegrass purists, Mr. Douglas offered a medley of mountain traditionals, completing a guided tour that passed through the Mississippi Delta, Appalachia and the Levant.

Sometimes you don’t need a singer to tell you what you’re looking at.

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