Bluegrass spiced with exceptional instrumental wizardry and touches of contemporary rock and blues - that's the mainstay of Boone Creek, the Lexington. Ky.-based band that returned to the Washington area this past weekend to ballyhoo its first album, recently released on the Rounder Label.

Boone Creek is the 2-year-old creation of young veteran performer Ricky Skaggs, who has played fiddle and mandolin with some of the best in the business.

Boone Creek's star, however, is fleet-fingered Jerry Douglas, who shared the recent Muleskinner award for last year's best (dobro) player with Washington's own Mike Auldridge. Douglas is subtle, creative - using rock licks, for example, in the band's version of Muehlenberg County (Paradise) - and he puts playing above ego involvement with the audience.

Enthusiastic listenrs at the Birchmere in Arlington Saturday night obviously agreed with the group's other Muleskinner plaudits, but would also have singled out the group's newest addition, bass player Steve Bryant. His electric bass may offend bluegrass purists, but that clean bottom line on traditional. Bill Monroe numbers of the lascivious licks in a rousing "sweet Georgia Brown" or the "Orange Blossom Special," two of the group's best, sent sparks through the Birchmere audience. Bryant and Douglas have magic in their fingers.

Boone Creek, who played last night at Desperados, will return to the Washington area the second weekend in October for another two-night stand at the Birchmere.