Review: Auldridge, Douglas, Ickes – Three Bells

The Bells Toll For Us!

Yes! The bells toll for us! Mike Auldridge, Jerry Douglas and Rob Ickes created the recording session they’ve all wanted to do together and we are the beneficiaries! This recording was done knowing Mike Auldridge, battling cancer, had little time left.

Mike Auldridge’s cool, smooth style has mesmerized many a dobro player. His
uncanny intonation, slick riffs and mellow tone are musical fruit. Gone now, with his death, a few days after Christmas 2012. He was born December 30, 1938. His recorded music abounds but watching him play up close was a joyful event!

His website no longer shows his music and CDs; it is now a blog promoting antioxidants and performance boosters with the statement: “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” Interesting that this statement is apropos and resonates with those who knew Mike Auldridge. Mike’s desire to play dobro as often as possible was his daily goal, whether it was the 8-string model he designed and advocated with the release of the CD Eight String Swing, or the standard 6-string. His teaching generosity is well known. He would probably be stunned to find his book Bluegrass Dobro is for sale on Amazon for up to $286.74! If he could now, he might make a joke of it, like “I wish that happened when I was alive!” Mike had a great sense of humor and was very generous with his knowledge.

When I was interested in learning his style of dobro, I sent him an email query asking if he was teaching. He responded in 15 minutes! I took several lessons with Mike at his home in Silver Springs, MD on 6-string dobro, 8-string and lap steel. The hour lesson often took an hour and a half ending up with playing a tune together and just talking about country music. Mike never clocked our session. After the lesson, we would discuss, among other things, which car he should buy. Mike loved cars.

In the shade of The Great Dobro Sessions release, here again is the combined power of three of the best dobro players to come along! Mike Auldridge, who first heard dobro when his uncle Elsworth Cousins played with Jimmy Rogers, Jerry Douglas who considered his mentor Mike Auldridge a “hero,” and Rob Ickes, who said, “I was so into Mike Auldridge. That’s all I just drank and ate.” And here they are playing together!

Listen to “Silver Threads Among The Gold” for those of you interested in what dobro heaven is all about! This song exemplifies how three dobros can play together with perfect intonation.

The Solo Tracks On The Three Bells CD

Mike Auldridge supplied the “Till There WasYou/Moon River” medley, where the beauty of Mike’s playing blooms. This tune epitomizes Mike’s dreamy and smooth style. Every note and chord played is just enough–simply deep and mellow Mike Auldridge.

“Till There Was You/Moon River”

On another solo track is the Celtic flavored tune written by Jerry Douglas “The Perils Of Private Mulvaney” where it sounds like there are more Jerrys playing than you can count! Jerry leaves no dead air in this flowing piece!

“The Perils Of Private Mulvaney”

Rob Ickes adds his own studied solo tune “The Message” with harmonics and some tricky rolling passages. Rob shows his strong control moving around the fret board.

“The Message”

Rob Ickes “Dobro Heaven” has all three soaring in their own way. Listen carefully for who is playing. Mike’s sound is mellow and warm. If you have heard Rob play enough you can pick out riffs that are Rob’s style. Rob’s dobro has an edgy, slicing sound. Jerry seems to always have a lot going on at the same time. Jerry’s dobro sports more “effects.”

My vote for the most exciting track is “Panhandle Rag” reprised from The Great Dobro Sessions project. Mike’s dobro occupies the midpoint between the right and left channels in this stereo recording. Listen and pick out who is on the left and right. Each artist takes a solo on “Panhandle Rag” and all three masters show how to back up each other and keep fills to a minimum in order for the soloist to shine.

“Panhandle Rag”

Douglas and Ickes would visit Mike in his Silver Springs, MD home to complete the recordings. Rob and Jerry have commented on the sessions.

Rob Ickes responded, “It was great to work with two of my main musical heroes. It was an honor to get to know Mike better over the course of these recordings. He was the guy who inspired me to start playing the dobro when I was 13 years old. He was 100% devoted to his music and it was amazing to see how his passion for music had not ebbed one bit. Mike knew that these were going to be his last recordings and he kept saying how thrilled he was to be involved in this project that celebrates the instrument he devoted his life to. It was a thrill for me to be a part of this project also.”

Jerry Douglas wraps it up, saying “While we were in the studio, I kept thinking ‘Why didn’t we do this before? We should have done it a lot sooner, though perhaps it wasn’t meant to happen until now. In any event, I am very proud of the work that we did together and the spirit that was captured in these sessions. Best of all, it raised Mike up and made him feel better for awhile, and that was the cherry on top.”

Three Bells is a keeper!

Rounder Records


Sean Feder: On first listen, an astounding album, a testament to where the dobro has come and is going. Landmark , milestone. This is the best in music, people…virtuostic yet rootsy, heartfelt. We will return to this well many times for inspiration and sheer joy.

Doug Mathewson: Thanks Sean!

Dave Falk: What a terrific review……Rob and Jerry, thank you for letting us in and sharing a few memories of Mike.

Doug Mathewson: Thanks Dave!

Doug Mathewson:

Doug Mathewson

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *