The grass isn’t always bluer on the other side. On his eleventh solo release, Jerry Douglas’ curiosity might have gotten the best of him. Lookout for Hope hops from blues rock to Celtic folk to post-bop jazz, showcasing not only Douglas’ immense talent as an instrumentalist and composer but also his eclectic taste. A legendary studio player who’s appeared on more than 1,000 recordings, Douglas has backed many of the best, and he calls upon a few friends to return the favor, including Phish’s Trey Anastasio, newgrass innovator Sam Bush and “Sweet Baby” James Taylor.
Given Douglas’ range, it’s no surprise to hear him leapfrog from the Allman Brothers’ acoustic classic “Little Martha” to Bill Frisell’s modal jazz composition “Lookout for Hope” to the frenetically paced jamgrass barn burner “Cave Bop.” Also, the two vocal offerings on the disc epitomize the kind of subtle, sublime support Douglas has lent to so many singers, from Emmylou Harris and Alison Krauss to Paul Simon and Ray Charles. Unfortunately, Hope becomes a disjointed and disconnected affair that fails to commit to any of these styles. That’s not to say Douglas’ talent must be corralled into any single style, but Hope suffers from a lack of focus that makes it more a sampler than a statement.