A consummate musician whose name has become synonymous with the instrument he plays, Jerry Douglas is also an effective raconteur, and seemingly has as many ways of telling a story as he has stories. In his delightful solo appearance at the Lobero, the Grammy-winning dobro master created miniature symphonies out of material old and new, all of it on his trademark steel-fronted resonating guitar, and most of it without recourse to digital samples or backing tracks.
Douglas began his 90-minute set by weaving stories about his dobro predecessors Mike Auldridge and Josh Graves into musical illustrations of their styles and reminiscences of his own early days on the road. Not known for his singing, Douglas nevertheless pulled off great vocal versions of two classic songs from very different idioms. First he took on Leadbelly’s gritty “On a Monday” with considerable aplomb, and later he wailed on “Hey Joe” the ’60s garage rock nugget made famous by Jimi Hendrix.
Highlights included the original instrumental “Emphyzema Two Step,” which Douglas said he had played with Edgar Meyer just the night before at the Hollywood Bowl. An encore medley of Paul Simon’s “American Tune” and Chick Corea’s “Spain” sent the appreciative audience out onto the Lobero’s elegant new plaza with a song in their hearts and the sweet, resonant harmonies of the Douglas dobro still ringing in their ears.