Jerry Douglas' music career has taken him from Leavittsburg to around the world.
His latest solo album, ''Traveler,'' takes him to some places he's never been before, including in front of a microphone.
Those used to hearing the 1974 LaBrae High School graduate express himself through his dobro get to hear his voice on the opening track, Leadbelly's ''On a Monday.''
''That sort of was the year of trying everything,'' Douglas said from his home in Nashville. ''Maybe it's my age, but I've been doing this for a long time and I wanted to try something new, not rehash things.''
The Leadbelly song was suggested by producer Russ Titelman, who told Douglas it was the first song he ever remembered hearing.
''It ended up as a good springboard into this thing. Why not starts out with something really wacky?'' Douglas said.
Titelman's presence also qualified as something new for Douglas. ''Traveler'' is his 14th solo album, but it is the first time he's worked with an outside producer. He and Titelman (who has produced albums by Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, Randy Newman, Rickie Lee Jones and Little Feat) have talked about working together for years, and Douglas finally decided to bring someone else in as producer so he could concentrate on playing.
''I didn't feel I played as well on my own records as I did on others','' Douglas said. ''I had to listen to what everyone else was playing rather than concentrate on getting my parts right, and then there's not enough time to really flesh it out. This time I decided to let Russ take the big picture.''
The two sat down and plotted out the record the songs they wanted to play, the musicians they wanted to play them and where they wanted to record. There was some traveling involved there, too, recording in New Orleans, New York, Nashville, Montreal and Banbury, England.
The England session was the only ''wild card'' that wasn't part of the original plan. Douglas was in London last year and talking with Marcus Mumford of Mumford and Sons about doing something together. He suggested the Simon & Garfunkel song ''The Boxer.'' When the Jerry Douglas Band opened for Paul Simon on his 2006 tour, Douglas would join Simon on stage during his encore for stripped down rendition of the song. In the time it took for the two to walk across a bridge over the River Thames, Douglas decided they should recorded it.
''Then we'll play it for him (Simon) and see what he thinks,'' Douglas said. ''We played it for him, and he loved it and wanted to play on it. He added some great high harmonies and made it more forceful, bigger. And I think Marcus did a great job singing it. The essence of the song is there.''
The track already is getting airplay on radio stations that never have played Douglas' solo work or even Alison Krauss & Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas, the band that dominates his time.
''Something You Got,'' a cover of a song by New Orleans R&B artist Chris Kenner, is another recording that could expand the reach of the record beyond Douglas' core fans. The track features Eric Clapton on lead vocals and guitar and Dr. John on piano while Douglas contributes the harmony vocals and pedal steel.
Douglas has played at two of Clapton's Crossroads music festivals, and Clapton was another person he'd had conversations with about recording together over the years.
''I wanted to make sure if I asked him to be on a record, I wanted to make sure it was something he would want to do,'' Douglas said. ''I didn't want to waste him. I said I really think you would sound great on 'Something You Got,' and when I mentioned the song, he said, 'I'm in. I've always wanted to do it.' He said he just wished they had cut it (the original version) slower, so we cut it slower, much slower, and it just grooves. I haven't seen him get that excited about playing something in a long time.''
''Traveler'' contains several instrumentals that are closer in style to his previous work, including a dobro and mandolin duet with Sam Bush on ''Duke and Cookie.'' And Alison Krauss & Union Station make an appearance with ''Frozen Fields,'' a track that was recorded for the band's ''Paper Airplane'' but only was included as a bonus track on the CD available through Target.
But ''Traveler'' has a stronger rock and blues influence than most of the recordings by a performer known primarily for his work in bluegrass and country, although with appearances on more than 2,000 albums, Douglas has been spanning genres for decades.
''I don't just play country music,'' he said. ''I don't want to be predictable. I've got too much going on in my head.''
Since the release of ''Traveler'' last month, Douglas has been mixing some solo dates around Alison Krauss & Union Station shows. More dates promoting the album are planned, but for now none of those shows are scheduled in Ohio or western Pennsylvania. Douglas said he hopes to play in the area again by early 2013.
It will be hard for any show to top his 2012 homecoming date at Packard Music Hall with Alison Krauss & Union Station. The band played to a sell-out crowd and raised more than $50,000 for local charities.
''Everybody in the band loved it,'' Douglas said. ''I could believe it. I felt like I'd had a baby or something. I was so proud to play there and see all those people turn out ... It was a dream night. I was very proud to be in Warren, Ohio, that night.''