Onstage at the Ryman on Saturday night, Alison Krauss shared a personal story. “There’s these little ice cream balls you can buy at Trader Joe’s. Today I ate three of them, and then I took a nap, for like, three hours. I guess you’re only supposed to eat one. And that’s what I did today.”
News flash: Alison Krauss is funny. So are the members or her band, Union Station, the wizards of bluegrass whom Krauss has been paired with for over twnety years. Their good-natured stage banter had the crowd, who were already in a hooting and hollering mood, howling. Maybe folks were just happy to see them together again — it’d been seven years since they last toured. In the interim, Krauss teamed up with Robert Plant for a celebrated album, Raising Sand, while Union Station dobro master Jerry Douglas toured with Elvis Costello. The band reconvened to record 2011’s Paper Airplane, an album which finds them at the top of their game, and will no doubt add to their prodigious stack of Grammys come election time (Krauss has won 26, more than any other female artist in history.)
If the jokes were funny, the songs were often doleful. “People come up to us and say, hey, how come you sing all these sad songs? And I guess that’s cause we’re sad people,” quipped Krauss. She soon introduced the room to a handful of Nashville songwriters who’d contributed to their albums over the years, who stood up and waved as the house lights came up. “They’re sad people too,” she said.
Krauss and co. harmonized, sawed and picked their way through songs from Paper Airplane and their deep catalog. Along the way, they covered Richard Thompson (“Dimming Of The Day”) and The Foundations’ 1967 soul classic “Now That I’ve Found You.” Union Station’s Dan Tyminski handled lead vocals on a number of songs, including a crowd-pleasing “Man Of Constant Sorrow” from the O Brother soundtrack.
Opening act Angel Snow also cast a spell over the crowd. They adopted her early, and not just because of her angelic good looks. Her songs, which were played to perfection by her all-acoustic band, have an air of magic to them — at times sounding like Gillian Welch mixed with Sarah Mclachlan; other times, like an Appalachian Fiona Apple or Jeff Buckley. Krauss discovered Snow’s music via her CD demo, and ended up including her song “Lie Awake” on Paper Airplane. Watching Snow on this night, on the famed Ryman stage, it felt like a star was born.
(Photos: Jamie Goodsell)
Alison Krauss and Union Station