Three Bells is a fascinating album by three of the best resonator guitar players who will ever play the instrument. For Douglas and Ickes, it’s a labor of love musically, giving tribute to Auldridge for taking this unique instrument to a new level of sophistication. Past heroes such as Brother Oswald and Uncle Josh Graves were crucial to the evolution of the square neck, but Auldridge widened the use of the resonator guitar, showcasing it in different ways while playing different genres.
The making of Three Bells was a labor of love for Douglas and Ickes for another reason, as well—Auldridge was succumbing to cancer as the album was being completed. The last recording sessions happened right before Auldridge passed in December of 2012.
Douglas said a few months before the album’s release that they didn’t record it as a tribute, but instead tried to create the beautiful music they had talked about making for so long. But, the cancer began to close in. Said Douglas, “I’ve never heard him play better. There is something about knowing that the end is near that, all of a sudden, you have less distractions and things are a little bit more clearer in your frame. He wasn’t distracted by things. He really wanted to put out there what he had been experimenting with for years.”
Three Bells is surprisingly mellow and a beautiful album. The recording showcases three legends not in competition with each other, but instead giving each other space and collaborating to make sweet, incredible music with an instrument they all love. It ends with Auldridge’s last-ever recording, “I’m Using My Bible As A Road Map.” (Rounder Records, One Rounder Way, Burlington, MA 01803, www.rounder.com.)DH