Alison Krauss & Jerry Douglas Are Sensational, But Dan Tyminski Is Union Station's Engineer"/>
Alison Krauss & Union Station
Friday, July 8, 2011
When Union Station added the famed guitarist and dobro player Jerry Douglas to its>"/>
Alison Krauss & Union Station Marymoor Park Friday, July 8, 2011
Friday, July 8, 2011
When Union Station added the famed guitarist and dobro player Jerry Douglas to its permanent lineup in the late '90s, it was the musical equivalent of giving Thomas Jefferson a cubicle in FDR 's Oval Office, just to have an extra set of brains around. Already the tightest band on earth, Douglas' addition ensured that even if hyper-intelligent aliens learned to play bluegrass and penetrated the ecosystem, Union Station could still whoop their ass.
And we haven't even gotten around to talking about Alison Krauss, who performed with Union Station, as she has for the past 20-plus years, at Marymoor Park last night in front of a packed and appreciative crowd.
A teen fiddling prodigy who grew up in the Midwest, Krauss linked up with Union Station in the late '80s and has remained faithful to them despite the pull of higher-profile collaborators like Robert Plant, with whom she recorded the 2009 Grammy winner Raising Sand. When touring with Plant, Krauss was content to play the shyly flirtatious second (ahem) fiddle, showcasing a soaring, effortlessly clean, angelic voice that has no equal in popular music today; she makes Sarah McLachlan sound like Madonna without Auto-Tune.
Yet with Union Station, Krauss' personality takes on a goofy, relaxed complexion. Throughout last night's two-hour set, she consistently needled bandmates about the dorky banjo belts they wore in high school, and remarked that the first dance she attended around that time was with a boy who took her to Kentucky Fried Chicken, because he had a coupon. Krauss developed a taste for Original Recipe before the boy's mother picked them up and ferried them to the dance.
Like Lucinda Williams last week at the Zoo, Krauss and the boys drew somewhat sparingly from their fine new album, Paper Airplane, favoring older, better-known tracks like "Baby, Now That I've Found You," "Let Me Touch You For Awhile," "Man of Constant Sorrow," "The Boy Who Wouldn't Hoe the Corn," "Ghost in This House," and "Oh, Atlanta." The encore concluded with an a cappella "Down to the River to Pray," during which most of the audience sang along, and the heart-wrenching "Your Long Journey"--a traditional country hymn which topped off Raising Sand.
Midway through the show, Douglas--who earned "featured" billing--dazzled the crowd with a 15-minute instrumental intermezzo while his bandmates took a powder, save for Dan Tyminski, best known for lending George Clooney his singing voice in O Brother, Where Art Thou? For all of Krauss' gifts, Tyminski provides a necessary stylistic foil; were it not for his assuming lead vocals every third song or so, an Alison Krauss & Union Station show might come off as robotically perfect.
Even when Krauss is singing lead, the bearded, bulldog-faced Tyminski can usually be caught mouthing the lyrics as he plays his guitar or mandolin. After all these years, he still can't resist singing along. There's a palpable joy to Tyminski which warms an entire amphitheater, and makes the megastar to his right seem as approachable as the cute clerk at the feed store.