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Krauss and Union Station sound fine

Sanders Theatre, Cambridge, Mass., May 13, 1997

By Jeffrey B. Remz

CAMBRIDGE, MASS. - Hard to imagine how bad the condition of Alison Krauss's voice must have been a week ago to have forced cancellation of her concert given how fine she sounded Tuesday.

Bluegrass diva Krauss and Union Station, her backing quartet, were in top form throughout a 90-minute show at the sold-out Sanders Theatre.

Krauss, touring on the heels of her fine new disc "So Long So Wrong," is a musician whose voice has seemingly improved with age. She has an airy voice, but one that is quite expressive and fuels the songs with emotion ("Looking in the Eyes of Love" and "When You Say Nothing At All," a huge hit for Krauss). Many of the songs in Krauss's repertoire focus on affairs of the heart - the searching for sturdy relationships.

But not everything is delivered in the same high octave style. She can hit harder as well. To wit, "Oh Atlanta," the closer to the regular set, found Krauss coming off as somewhat soulful.

Although Krauss carted home much hard ware from country awards shows a few years ago, this evening was squarely focused on bluegrass. Of course, a few gospel songs were thrown into the mix ("Green Pastures" was the first encore song, while "There Is a Reason" closed the concert).

One of the few out and out country songs was "Looking in the Eyes of Love," a song co-written by Kostas, the author of many top-notch country songs.

It can't be emphasized enough about the impact of Union Station on the evening. The band must go hand-in-hand whenever Krauss is mentioned. This is not only Krauss's back-up band. Instead, they are almost equal partners with Krauss.

Dan Tyminski, originally from Vermont, sang lead vocals on several songs quite effectively (especially "Blue Trail of Sorrow") as did mandolinist Adam Steffey ("No Place to Hide").

If you need further evidence it was not only Krauss's show, the instrumentation ought to clear that up. Krauss suffers from no ego problems of her band upstaging her. In fact, she seems more than happy to let them show their prowess.

Ever member of the band - including banjoist, guitarist Ron Block, who also writes songs, Barry Bales on upright bass, Tyminski and Steffey - were given their space. Of course, Krauss's fiddle playing is top-notch, but she was another cog, doing her part in making the songs come alive even more. She makes that instrument sing.

The musicianship was superb throughout, whether spare on many of the tender songs (the big hit for Krauss, "Now That I Found You," a remake of the three-decades old song of The Foundations) or picking it up a notch.

There was a warmth throughout the evening from the vocals to the musicianship to the stage banter with Krauss telling several humorous stories.

While the idea of a band touting its merchandise is almost always exceedingly boring and self-serving, Steffey managed to do it with graet aplomb. He joked about the amount of goods for sale, including a travel mug that "keeps it piping hot" and key chains, saying the band "broadened our horizons...they're probably our favorite (item)."

The focus, though, was really on the music and particularly the new disc from which they played 10 songs. About the only complaint was that one wished Krauss and Union Station had played even longer.

But at least Krauss had her voice back and was able to perform. And with that and Union Station in tow, this made for one fine evening of music.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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