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The Jerry Douglas Band – led by 14-time Grammy Award-winning musician Jerry Douglas – release their inaugural studio album What If on Rounder Records. Throughout the album's 11-tracks, What If decisively merges jazz inclinations with the bluegrass, country, blues, swing, rock, and soul that Douglas spent his life absorbing and performing, forging a sound that flies beyond the boundaries of anything he – or anyone else – has done before.
Though Douglas has recorded several of these songs previously; he turns them inside out here in bold new arrangements filled with unexpected elements. For example, in 1992 he covered "Hey Joe," the Billy Roberts folk tune that became one of Jimi Hendrix's most beloved blues-rockers, as an uptempo bluegrass song. Here, it's recontextualized again with drums and fiddle – and horns instead of mandolin. Speaking of changing the feel, Douglas' rendering of Tom Waits' "2:19" is a funky revelation, dripping with soul – and vocals that sound like they're rolling from the lips of a grizzled Beale Street bluesman killing it at 3 a.m., not a three-time Country Music Association Musician of the Year. He also radically reconfigures album opener "Cavebop," originally recorded in 2002. This time, it contains the horns he always wanted it to have.
As soon as he graduated from high school, Douglas headed to Washington, D.C., to join Charlie Waller, Ricky Skaggs, and Doyle Lawson in the Country Gentlemen. He's since performed in so many incarnations; at one point, he counted membership in eight bands – simultaneously. His recent history includes his band the Earls of Leicester – his version of the Flatt and Scruggs band – with Shawn Camp, Charlie Cushman, Jeff White, Johnny Warren, and Barry Bales; their self-titled 2014 debut earned Douglas his 14th Grammy. He'd already picked up eight with Alison Krauss & Union Station, with whom he's closing out his second decade, and shared the Album of the Year win for O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the film soundtrack that helped replant traditional roots music in the modern American psyche.