Nashville session players don’t get much respect outside country music’s inner circle. Jerry Douglas, master of the Weissenborn (a hollow-necked slide guitar) and dobro, for example, has lent his talents to over 1,000 recordings–odds are that if you have a handful of contemporary country records, he’s on at least one of them–yet he’s not as well-known as dozens of mediocre singers with only a record or two to their names. Mandolinist-guitarist Peter Rowan, on the other hand, has risen above such anonymity–largely because he can sing. While he’s played in groups led by Bill Monroe, David Grisman, Steve Earle, and even Jerry Garcia (on Old and in the Way), Rowan’s made a series of terrific records that intersperse his vibrant originals with smartly revamped bluegrass classics. Douglas and Rowan have played together before, but the recent Yonder (Sugar Hill) marks their debut as a duo. The album includes several of Rowan’s originals, but it’s anchored by treatments of early country numbers associated with stars like the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers, as well as lesser-known acts. On the lilting “Lullaby of the Leaves,” originally recorded by Hawaiian-guitar ace Roy Smeck, Douglas’s sublime dobro playing mirrors the languid, unpredictable drift of falling leaves. On “Chicka-Li-Lee-O,” Rowan’s spirited vocals update old-timey crooning with effortless melodic grace. There’s a refreshing casual air to the proceedings, an acknowledgment that before country became an assembly line it was just as often front-porch entertainment. Guitar fingerpicker Joel Mabus opens. Friday, 7 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 909 W. Armitage; 525-7793.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Jerry Douglas photo by Peter Noah/ Peter Rowan photo by Kathleen Jones Avery.