Krauss Soars Before Sold-Out Crowd Print
Music - Feature Stories
Tuesday, 26 March 2002 18:00
Very few people will disagree that Bill Monroe is the father of bluegrass music. But I wonder how many of them will admit that it was a young female fiddler from Champaign, Illinois, who made it a viable commercial entity in the 21st Century.

In front of a sold out crowd Sunday night at the Adler, 28-year-old Alison Krauss and her band, Union Station, held that crowd in the palm of their collective hand from 8:20 until almost 10 p.m. They blended bluegrass, country, folk, gospel, and pop into a style of music that is uniquely their own and yet obviously pays homage and respect to the artists that forged the way.

The band features Alison on fiddle and vocals, and although she had to get warmed up a bit, after half an hour, she was sailing and wailin’. Her voice is reminiscent of Emmylou Harris but more powerful and with a higher range.

The audience found out just why Jerry Douglas on dobro guitar is legendary when he was featured solo on a six-minute medley. Even though he didn’t know the names of the tunes, it was a tour de force of dobro musicianship through a sound system so clean, you could hear his fingers fretting the strings. (All of the instruments were acoustic and miked, not amplified by pickups.) I have never heard the Adler sound as good as it did Sunday night.

Alison introduced Dan Tyminski (on guitar, mandolin, and lead vocals) as the singing voice of George Clooney in the movie O Brother Where Art Thou? Dan was the lead vocalist on “Man of Constant Sorrow,” and he sings it as if he lived it. (Ralph Stanley, the author, would be pleased with his arrangement.) Dan is a solid journeyman player, with his tasty guitar and lead vocals and with solid harmony vocals, lending an ethereal harmony vocal to Alison’s voice in what has become one of their trademark songs, “Ghost in the House” – a haunting sad ballad.

It was readily apparent early in the show that the band missed Barry Bales, the bass player who also provides high harmonies. Alison apologized for his absence and explained that he was “pukin’ sick.” She also quipped, “I feel like I’m not wearin’ underpants.”

They did, however, pull it off, as Tyminski and Ron Block (guitar and banjo) filled in the bottom deftly with the low strings on their vintage Martin guitars.

Alison and the band got a standing ovation and came back and played two more songs, huddled around one microphone, with drummer Larry Atumanuik on conga, playing with the same deftness and finesse as he played on the drum kit in the rest of the show.

There was a buzz as the audience left the Adler, a shared appreciation that we were all entertained by a group of people who love to play and respect the history and heritage of the music.

I have a feeling that being stars is not something that they planned on. This style of music has been likened to the mashed potatoes – no frills. It’s not dressed up with layers of sound and sampling; the musicians just stand up there and play and sing. Kind of sounds like an honest way to make a living, for a change.