There are world musicians, and there are musicians of the world. In the case of Alberta-born Doug Cox, this extremely talented six-stringer happens to be both – and a lot more besides. As a young bluesman, this devotee of bottleneck slide guitar had a life-transforming moment nearly 30 years ago when he first saw Jerry Douglas play the Dobro. That eerie, slightly plangent music resonated deep in his soul and changed everything. The next morning Doug went out and bought a Dobro and has never looked back.
Always a gifted slide guitarist, Doug immediately displayed a special affinity for this most expressive of instruments. His talent and passion proved nearly boundless, and before long he was playing and recording with masters such as Ellen McIlwaine and David Essig. Eventually his musical world expanded to include such diverse virtuosos as Indian slide guitarist Salil Bhatt, Hawaii’s Anela Kahiamoe, dearly departed bluesman Long John Baldry, guitar slinger Amos Garrett, and expat Rwandan The Mighty Popo. His own bands and solo recordings display a similarly expansive arc, as the folk-blues of Bone Bottle Brass or Steel eventually led to old-timey supergroup Strung (Band of Gypsies – with Tony McManus and April Verch), New Orleans funk (Make A Better World – featuring John Boutte on Vocals), or countrified Austin Americana in company with BettySoo (Across The Borderline). It’s fair to say that Doug’s extensive recorded output has been at or near the forefront of creative acoustic music for many years now.
Surprisingly modest for someone who has earned innumerable raves, from the BBC’s Bob Harris to magazines such as Guitar Player, Doug has long been an in-demand virtuoso on the Dobro, mandolin, Weissenborn, and the National Steel. His music has been featured on many soundtracks, including Terry Gilliam's Tideland. He was the first featured Dobro player ever booked by the Montreal Jazz Festival, and the first Canadian invited to play Dobrofest in Trnava in Slovakia, a unique festival set in the birthplace of the Dopyera brothers, the men who invented the Dobro nearly a century ago.
Either as solo performer or as guest artist on several dozen CDs – or when touring with longtime friends and colleagues such as Steve Dawson, Jim Byrnes, and Amos Garrett – Doug embodies inventiveness and breathtaking musicality. Whether the performance calls for rootsy Americana, New Acoustic, or traditional blues with an African twist, Doug is an intuitive and gracious musical collaborator.
And more than just a performer, Doug is deeply embedded in the entire world of music. Aside from regularly teaching at music camps in Alaska, Texas, and England, he ran his own Malahat Mountain Music studio for years and still produces records for the many musical friends he has made along his journey. He is also the producer and artistic director of Vancouver Island MusicFest, which is closing in on its 20th year and has long been one of Canada’s most popular and respected music events. Artists like Nanci Griffith, k.d. lang, and Jerry Douglas sign up for MusicFest in large part because of the man who runs it.
Doug's worked hard on his art and his craft, and you can hear it when he plays. You can also see it, in the names of the artists he's making music with and the places he's played and when you read between those lines, you know he's earned the respect of his peers and a lot of very happy listeners. He is a catalyst among musicians and artists for many fascinating collaborations.
What a long, strange – and delightful – trip it continues to be!