Last evening several friends (old and new) joined me as we caught the last show on the short “Jerry Christmas” tour featuring Dobro master Jerry Douglas along with John Oates and Irish singer Maura O’Connell. This was my first trip to the Rams Head Tavern in Annapolis, and while the room has much to recommend it (especially an intimacy that connects performer and audience), the sound mix wasn’t great and O’Connell’s mic was especially bad, with a buzzing and poor sound quality that should have been fixed after the first song.
That sound mix was a bother, but it didn’t stop the musicianship of Douglas and his band from coming through. The music alternated between seasonal music and “palate cleansers” as Douglas described his regular tunes. The best of the former was a beautiful In the Bleak Midwinter. There was a tie for weirdest of the former – between a “spooky” Santa Claus is Coming to Town and a well-named Do You Hear What I Hear where Douglas, after announcing that Christmas melodies were sacrosanct, then proceeded to show “what he hears in his head” with an off-the-wall underlying arrangement. In the palate cleanser categories, O’Connell sang a moving version of Nanci Griffith’s Trouble in the Fields, and Douglas and his band mates ripped through Whose Your Uncle? – the Douglas tribute to Dobro pioneer Uncle Josh Graves. And in a merger of the two categories, the encore included a Douglas staple, Choctaw Hayride, renamed as Choctaw Sleighride.
As befits a band on the last night of a tour, Douglas, Oates and O’Connell were ready to cut up and joke – and they did. On the music front, my favorite revelation was the introduction of young fiddler (and 2009 Grand Master Fiddling Contest winner) Alex Hargreaves. He had a sweet tone, an inventive ear and he fit right in with Douglas’ hot band.
So as he did last evening, I’ll leave you with Douglas (this time with Alison Krauss + Union Station) playing that old Christmas standard Choctaw Sleighride. Enjoy!
More to come…