Mike Auldridge has been lionized as a giant of the slide resonator guitar for many years, long before he died just after Christmas in 2012. From his early days in the Washington, DC bluegrass scene through his time with Seldom Scene, Chesapeake, and his own stellar solo recordings, Mike was the most influential player of his generation.
He had picked up the mantle left by pioneers like Josh Graves and Brother Oswald, and demonstrated how to use the Dobro or Hound Dog guitar to play intricate melodies in acoustic and bluegrass music. Two of the young players strongly influenced by Auldridge’s music, Jerry Douglas and Rob Ickes, have become the preeminent practitioners of their day.
Now, those three reso-masters have a new album ready for a September release on Rounder, completed during the waning days of Mike’s losing battle with cancer. Three Bells was conceived by Douglas partly to document the three of them together, and partly as an exercise in supporting Mike during a difficult time. It was initially projected as a fun thing, getting he and Rob to jam in the studio with their buddy, with only their three resonator guitars in the mix.
As Jerry says…
“It was important to me to do right by Mike, so we started out with the intention that this would be all about him, and that we would play what he wanted to play, with no intentions of ever offering it to the public. We went into it a little tentatively, not knowing how far we could push him under the circumstances. But Mike played as good as I have ever heard him play, and he was the most gung-ho of the three of us. And that enthusiasm drove Rob and me to raise our own bars to keep up with him.”
Douglas said that the album surpassed his expectations, and that seeing Mike enjoying the sessions so well made it a success before it was even completed. Ickes agreed, suggesting that they really captured something special.
“I thought it would be challenging, having three Dobros together, but this was one of the easiest recordings I’ve ever made. Mike and I originally thought that Jerry was a little off his rocker to not use a backing band. But there was something special in how the three of us were interacting musically. Even though it was three of the same instrument—and a fretless instrument at that—there was an intelligent conversation occurring, not just three people trying to talk over each other.
Mike was having such a great time. Music was his life, and he was so happy to be making this record. He told us several times that he knew that this would be his last recording and that he was honored that it would be with us. I know Jerry and I felt equally honored to make this recording with him.”
They chose original instrumentals that each of them had written, plus a handful of standards.
- Silver Threads Among The Gold
- Till There Was You / Moon River
- Dobro Heaven
- Sunrise Serenade
- The Perils of Private Mulvaney
- The Three Bells
- For Buddy
- The Message
- Panhandle Rag
- I’m Using My Bible for a Roadmap
Rounder has announced a September 16 release date for Three Bells.
Category: Bluegrass recording news
If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to receive more just like it.