Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved reader experience across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.

176

Alison Krauss and Union Station: Denver, CO, September 2, 2011

Geoff Anderson By

Sign in to view read count
Alison Krauss and Union Station
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Denver, Co
September 2, 2011

Alison Krauss and Union Station often get lumped into the "country" music category, but occasionally, they end up in the more accurate "bluegrass" classification. Modern country music seems to be little more than run-of-the-mill pop music with an occasional steel guitar, a big hat, a hint of Texas twang and subject matter that centers on lyin,' cheatin' and stealin.' Bluegrass, on the other hand, puts much more emphasis on the musicianship, both instrumental and vocal, rather than hat size. AKUS lay down some traditional bluegrass on occasion, but more frequently they use a more or less traditional bluegrass instrumentation and put their own twist on the style. This, of course, drives bluegrass purists crazy, but there's little fun that's more delicious than driving purists crazy.

By her own admission, Krauss and her band deal with death and dying and hard times in general. Musically, that translates into songs mostly in a minor key. It's not just a high lonesome sound, it's haunting music that consistently sends shivers down the spine. Occasionally, a love song seeps through, but even those usually have a touch of sadness or regret. The band draws its material from a wide variety of song writers, sometimes from the band, sometimes traditional, sometimes contemporary. A good example of the latter is the band's cover of Peter Rowan's "Dust Bowl Children." Although penned only a few years ago, it sounds like something right out of the 1930s, Woody Guthrie style. Another highlight Friday night was Richard Thompson's delicate "Dimming of the Day," a tune he wrote in the early '70s. Unmitigated bluegrass broke out about a third of the way through the set with "Rain Please Go Away," the traditional "Sawing on the Strings" and "Wild Bill Jones."

One thing that sets AKUS apart from most bluegrass bands is, of course, Alison Krauss herself. As they say out in the country, she sings just like a little ol' angel. Just barely 40, she's been playing professionally for over 25 years. Besides singing, she's also an award winning violin player, or fiddler as they say. She recently gained some crossover exposure through her dalliance, er, collaboration with Robert Plant in 2007's Raising Sand (Rounder, 2007) which picked up six Grammy awards. Now that her hanging-with-a-rock-star phase is over, she's back to her roots and her longtime band.

Krauss introduced band-mate and dobro player Jerry Douglas as "one of the best musicians of any genre." Douglas could stay home in Nashville and make an extremely comfortable living as a session player and not have to deal with the hassles of touring, but he chooses to go on the road with Krauss and the band, which is a coup for Krauss, the rest of the band and the audience. When monitor problems plagued the beginning of the show, the band quickly gave up in order to allow some time to work on the monitors—but Douglas remained on stage and worked out an impromptu solo, at one point meandering his way into the "Star Spangled Banner" while the orderly and generally patriotic crowd got the hint and stood up. Douglas also had another solo slot about half way through the set and used it to play a medley that included Chick Corea's "Spain."

Dan Tyminski is another indispensable member of Union Station, whose singing George Clooney lip-synched on "Man of Constant Sorrow" in the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? Tyminski sang lead vocals on about a third of the tunes and was Krauss' chief harmonizer. He and Ron Block continually switched stringed instruments from guitars to banjos to mandolins. The instrumentation was strictly acoustic—Douglas plugged in his dobro, but all the other instruments were played next to microphones for a pure acoustic sound, unfettered by even the attachment of a pickup.

Barry Bales on acoustic bass and backing vocals rounded out the core of Union Station. For Saturday night's show, the band expanded with the addition of Josh Hunton drums and John Dedrick on piano and accordion. Here again, the band was straying from strict bluegrass tradition. However, those two members were only on stage for about a quarter of the show and Hunt almost always used brushes, mallets or his hands on the drums for an understated approach to percussion.

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Jazztopad 2017: Concerts In Living Rooms Live Reviews Jazztopad 2017: Concerts In Living Rooms
by Martin Longley
Published: January 17, 2018
Read Lean On Me: José James Celebrates Bill Withers @ NYC Winter Jazzfest Live Reviews Lean On Me: José James Celebrates Bill Withers @ NYC...
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 15, 2018
Read Carl Bartlett, Jr. at Jazz At Kitano Live Reviews Carl Bartlett, Jr. at Jazz At Kitano
by Keith Henry Brown
Published: January 13, 2018
Read Kurt Rosenwinkel at Chris’ Jazz Café Live Reviews Kurt Rosenwinkel at Chris’ Jazz Café
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: January 2, 2018
Read Terence Blanchard at Christ Church Cranbrook Live Reviews Terence Blanchard at Christ Church Cranbrook
by Troy Dostert
Published: December 29, 2017
Read "Bonerama at the Iridium" Live Reviews Bonerama at the Iridium
by Mike Perciaccante
Published: August 5, 2017
Read "Omar Sosa At SFJAZZ" Live Reviews Omar Sosa At SFJAZZ
by Walter Atkins
Published: May 13, 2017
Read "Edgefest 2017: Give the Drummers Some, Part 2-2" Live Reviews Edgefest 2017: Give the Drummers Some, Part 2-2
by Troy Dostert
Published: October 30, 2017
Read "The Tom & Jamie Show at the College Street Congregational Church" Live Reviews The Tom & Jamie Show at the College Street...
by Doug Collette
Published: March 29, 2017