Reviewed by C. Eric Banister
ith Union Station bandleader Alison Krauss touring with Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant this summer, accompanied by her decision to scale back touring, the members of her backing band, Union Station, find themselves with free time on their hands, and Dan Tyminski will be making the best of it with the newly formed Dam Tyminski Band now on tour.
The band strolled on to the stage with no introduction or opening act and launched immediately into a tightly synchronized four-song set before the first word was spoken.
As evident in the playing, Tyminski assembled a band of formidable musicians who have a great time playing together. When putting the band together he called a couple of friends from the past, bassist Barry Bales and mandolin player Adam Steffey, both of which were members of Union Station when Tyminski joined in 1994.
Bales laid down a solid groove beneath the virtuosic playing of the other members, also lending harmony in most every song.
Steffey acted as the front man for the show introducing the band members and keeping the mood light with his one-liners and humorous observations. His playing was in fine form as he took many blistering solos throughout the night.
The first band member he introduced was Ron Stewart who, while perhaps best known for his fiddle work, plays the banjo. Steffey introduced him as a legend in the making and Stewart's lightning fast breaks let the audience know it wasn't hyperbole.
The fiddle spot is filled by relative newcomer Justin Moses' whose fiery playing strongly juxtaposed his stoic demeanor. Not only is Moses a strong fiddler, but he also traded instruments with Stewart throughout the night and also picked up the Dobro a couple of times proving to be just as strong on those. Moses started with regional Tennessee breakout Blue Moon Rising and recently touring with Newfound Road, but with the Tyminski band, he has the chops to prove he belongs there. He also provided the majority of high harmony vocals that perfectly complimented Tyminski all the while making it look effortless.
In a band filled with such talented musicians it was evident that they fed off of each other, attempting to top one another in their solos. It was fun to see, for example, Stewart launch into something mid-solo that would cause Steffey and Tyminski to sharply turn their heads to have a look before looking at each other sharing ear-to-ear grins. The group performed several instrumentals that had many on their feet.
Tyminski, although the band's namesake, left most of the talking to Steffey. He seemed more than content to let his playing and singing express his feelings. It is odd that a vocalist with a million-selling song ("Man of Constant Sorrow" from "O Brother, Where Art Thou?") could be considered one of the most underrated tenors in bluegrass, but that is the case for Tyminski. After so many years as a sideman and harmony singer, it is satisfying to hear him cut loose.
The nearly two-hour set included songs from Tyminski's 2000 solo release including the title track "Carry Me Across The Mountain" and "Stuck In The Middle Of Nowhere," plus Union Station songs and a few bluegrass classics.
Steffey stepped to the mic to perform "No Place To Hide" from the Union Station repertoire, his baritone a stark contrast to Tyminski's tenor.
With their newly recorded album scheduled to be released by Rounder Records in late-May/early-June, the band took the opportunity to showcase new songs. Steffey said the disc contained only one positive message, feel good song and the rest was "blood and guts, folks," noting that there was a lot of heartache and "bad things" on the remaining songs. The first song they showcased was "Heads You Win (Tails I Lose)," a heartache song about a broken relationship.
Introducing the Stewart-written "I Ain't Taking You Back No More" Steffey said it was about the biggest cussing you could give someone without cuss words. Stewart wanted to mention that it was not written about his wife, who was in the audience with their young son and Stewart's parents. Stewart was born and raised in Paoli, Ind., just "up the road" from Louisville, and he had a strong following in the audience.
The final song from the album was the uplifting song "I'll Be With You," written by Union Station banjo player Ron Block.
And, of course, the band couldn't leave without playing "Man Of Constant Sorrow." He noted before singing it that he was grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the "movie Milli Vanilli magic."
Wrapping up the evening with a bluesy take on Jimmy Martin's "Freeborn Man," the band left the stage with the audience on their feet before quickly coming back out to end with another Martin classic, "Sunnyside Of The Mountain."
The virtuosity of the band coupled with the obvious good time they were having with both the audience and each other made for an outstanding night of traditional bluegrass.