Dobro master Jerry Douglas sets the bar high in Tahoe

Jerry Douglas
Jerry Douglas performs a solo show at Crystal Bay’s Crown Room on March 4, 2020.
Michael Smyth / Tahoe Onstage photos

My guitar is not a thing. It is an extension of myself. It is who I am.

— Joan Jett

The Dobro guitar is a unique instrument. Played with a slide along its fretboard while it’s strings face upright toward the sky, its square neck design is strung at a high tension. The string vibrations are transmitted through perforations on a plate through an eight-legged spider system that reverberates through an inverted cone design creating sonic, amplified sound with a bright, metallic tone.

Jerry Douglas, perhaps the finest Dobro player on the planet, cemented that notion on Wednesday with a set spanning country, bluegrass, Celtic, Latin and rock in his first visit to Crystal Bay Casino’s Crown Room.

As Joan Jett stated above, a Dobro slung from his shoulders is indeed a part of Douglas as he stares down at its strings, frets, metal and wood. He doesn’t so much play it, as much as he commands it.

Crafting both airy melodies and sharp, stinging solo notes on tunes such as “Route Irish” and “The Wild Rumpus,” the 14-time Grammy winner pushed the instrument to succumb to his will as it yelped, barked, and cried at his behest.

Douglas provided his Dobro brief respite between tunes by revealing his sense of humor and irony. Stories ranged from a friend winning an orangutan in a poker game, his dog eating a recording session, an Irish wannabe rapper named Pierre MacDonald, and mistaking the book “Where the Wild Things Are” as a bedtime story for children.

Tahoe City’s Jenni Charles and Jesse Dunn (Dead Winter Carpenters) kicked the night off with a 45-minute set of DWC tunes. As they made their way through their second song Dunn spotted Douglas walk past the stage. “My heart kind of stopped,” he admitted onstage.  Jenni saw him too and copped to losing her place in the song momentarily.

Being starstruck is acceptable (and super-cool in my book) when you have bluegrass royalty in the house.  Dunn, Charles and guitarist Darren Senn were just some of local artists on hand to take in the Dobro master’s set. It would have been fabulous for Charles and Dunn to have been able to play one song with Douglas. Sadly, that opportunity was missed.

Jerry Douglas capped his performance with a cover of Paul Simon and Chick Correa’s “American Tune/Spain,” and an encore of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now”, bringing the seated crowd to it’s feet.

Douglas sat on the edge of the Crown Room stage after the show comfortably chatting with any fans that came forward to say hello. When you have a opportunity to see someone perform who’s the best on earth at what they do, you go. The chance for a quick chat is an even rarer privilege.

Let’s hope we see Mr Douglas here again soon.

-Michael Smyth

SET LIST
A New Day Medley
Spanish/Steel Guitar
219
Peaceful Return
Hey Joe
In Tribute To Peador O’Donnell
Route Irish
On A Monday
Who’s Your Uncle
Senia’s Lament
The Wild Rumpus
American Tune/Spain
Encore
Both Sides Now
Jerry Douglas
Jenni Charles; Jesse Dunn
Jenni Charles and Jesse Dunn of Tahoe City’s Dead Winter Carpenters open the show with a 45-minute set. Michael Smyth/Tahoe Onstage
Jenni Charles; Jesse Dunn
Jerry Douglas
Jerry Douglas

ABOUT Michael Smyth

Michael Smyth
Michael Smyth moved to Reno in 2007 after living more than 40 years in the Bay Area. In addition to going to live shows, he enjoys golf, skiing and fly-fishing. Check out his website https://michaelsmythmedia.com/

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