Alison Krauss and Union Station— in the Bluegrass State

In the no brainer department, Centre College’s Arts at Norton Center staff chose Alison Krauss and Union Station to open their 2012-2013 concert seres. This is rather like bringing Mitt Romney to Salt Lake hoping for a good reception, or coals to Newcastle for that matter. They don’t call Kentucky the Bluegrass State just because of the grass. I’m just saying. And what a perfect choice it was for a wonderful evening of fun and music in Danville with our good friends the Arnolds.

The story of Alison Krauss is interesting in many ways. Her family comes from Columbus Mississippi, but she was born in the Land of Lincoln and grew up in Champaign. A child star on the fiddle already by 10, playing bluegrass festivals and county fairs, she decided that while classical music was fine (she had had the lessons), that it was bluegrass that really floated her boat. And we are all so glad she did.

While she is only 39, her career has spanned the last 30 of those years and of those 30 she has performed with the cavalcade of all stars known as Union Station for the last 20 some years. She is already tied for the most Grammy nominations by any female artist in history, and much of those have come from her work with Union Station. Of especially note in Union Station are two men— Jerry Douglas, only the most award winning Dobro player on the planet, and Dan Tyminski (famous as the voice of George Clooney singing on O Brother Where Art Thou?) a fine picker, with a perfect Bluegrass voice. The truth about Alison however is that she has more in her quiver than Bluegrass arrows.

Witness, for example, her collaboration with Robert Plant in the Award winning Raising Sand CD. So great is her professionalism, that once that album did so well and there was push to do a second one like it, while she was game to try it, when she wasn’t satisfied with the outcome, it was never released. If you really want to the know the truth about Alison, she’s a Christian girl. Here is a Youtube clip from her singing in a Franklin Tn. church for a memorial serviceYouTube Preview Image

And if that is not enough, here is Alison singing the oldest hymn in the Methodist hymn book and one of my Irish favorites—-
YouTube Preview Image

If you are interested in an interview with Alison about music itself, here is a good one….YouTube Preview Image

And it that’s not good enough, here is an entire concert film from earlier this year, in case you missed the Danville show…
YouTube Preview Image

As for the concert we actually saw, they led off with lots of selections from the most recent album Paper Airplane, sprinkled in various tunes from the Greatest Hits collections (like ‘Baby, Now That I’ve Found You’) and then did various selections from the O Brother soundtrack, indeed many of the Gospel tunes. All of the encores were Gospel bluegrass, straight up. Just fantastic, and moving. One thing you get the sense of with Alison is that it just won’t do to sing like an angel and live like the devil. It just won’t do. So thank you Lord for the gift of Miss Alison and all her country/bluegrass/folk/mountain/gospel grace-filled (and often sad) tunes and those four fellers that really spice up her show.

  • Oscar

    One of my favorite groups, and my wifes ULTIMATE favorite group! We saw them last year in San Diego and they were worth every penny of the $160 I spent for tickets. Two hours of great music.

    By the way, if you are a Bluegrass fan try giving Dailey and Vincent a listen to. Purer harmonies you’ve NEVER heard!

  • Stephen Massey

    My wife and I saw them perform last Saturday at the Biltmore concert series. The stage was setup on the south lawn of the Biltmore house in Asheville, NC. It was hands down the best concert we’ve ever seen.

  • Chris

    Wonderful stuff Ben. You hit the nail on the head. I took my soon-to-be-wife to see AKUS for our third date. It was at the Palace in Louisville and it’s the show at which they made their live DVD. It was incredible, and the brief clips of our backs on the DVD footage still give us a chuckle.

    What amazes me about AKUS is the fullness of their sound. No notes are wasted or unnecessary. Jerry Douglass is as good a musician as there is on the planet, and Tyminski and Ron Block are multi dimensional.

    While I still prefer Del McCoury by a slim margin, AKUS knows what they do and who they are perhaps better than any other band, which makes them the very best at what they do. And while Allison has the voice of an angel, don’t sleep on her fiddling. She is formidable, can play fast, but I love her dramatic notes and timely fills. Thanks for the review!

  • Steve @ Norton Center

    Hi Ben,
    I’m glad you had a great experience at the Norton Center this past weekend with Alison Krauss and Union Station. The audience was certainly connected with the group and that energy was felt and returned through the band’s music.

    Last season we had Dailey & Vincent and they were also incredible. Another bluegrass/Americana band to check out that will be performing April 23 in the Norton Center’s 370-seat theatre is the Jeremy Kittel Band.

    Best wishes and again, thanks for posting about how much you enjoyed the concert.

    Steve Hoffman
    Executive Director
    Centre College’s Norton Center for the Arts

  • Oscar

    Listen to Steve, Ben! That’s TWO votes for Dailey and Vincent.

  • Philly

    Excellent article, however, Alison turned 41 last month :)

  • MtEmpire