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Concert Reviews:
Alison Krauss, Union Station get past colds to deliver sublime set at the Fox Theatre

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Friday, September 9, 2011

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DETROIT -- The word at the Fox Theatre on Thursday night (Sept. 8) was that Alison Krauss was so sick load-in for her concert's equipment was delayed a bit just to make sure she'd be up for doing the show.

As it turned out, there was no need to worry.

Krauss, performing with her band Union Station in support of "Paper Airplane," their first new album in seven years, was in prime form at the Fox, her voice clear and pure, her fiddle playing tasteful, her wit dry and amiably off-kilter. She did allude to a cold running through the group during its current tour, but none of the musicians seemed worse for the wear and delivered in the usual sublime fashion that is Union Station's stock in trade.

Besides the fresh material from "Paper Airplane," this year's tour has a new twist with the addition of a percussionist and keyboard player, who accented several of the 29 songs during the two-hour show -- particularly the closing couplet of "Any Old Time" and a rendition of Bad Company's "Oh, Atlanta." But the five main members of Union Station remained the real stars of the show on Thursday, mixing spot-on vocal harmonies with the intricate blend of their acoustic stringed instruments. Jerry Douglas' dobro received most of the solo spots -- he tossed a bit of jazz keyboardist Chick Corea's "Spain" into his mid-show extended showcase -- but Krauss had her moments on fiddle, too, as did Dan Tyminski and Ron Block on guitars, mandolin and banjo. One lively group instrumental came early in the show -- following the opening couplet of "Paper Airplane's" title track and the Tyminski-sung "Dustbowl Children" -- but most of the playing took place within the context of the individual songs, accenting and building off their rich, rootsy melodies.

While a malfunctioning curtain obscured the rear-stage video screen for about a third of the show, Krauss and company kept the highlights coming from the stage. "Daylight," "Sinking Stone," "Dimming of the Day" and "Let Me Touch Your For a While" were gorgeous, while "Ghost in This House" was so hauntingly mournful that Krauss cracked a few jokes afterwards to differentiate it from, say, the "Friday the 13th Film." She also seemed well aware of the downcast nature of many of the lyrics she and Union Station performed on Thursday; "We always like a good, sad song," she noted. "We don't want anybody leaving our show feeling good."

Nevertheless, there was plenty of upbeat fare to be had as well, including "Sawing on the Strings," the murder ballad "Wild Bill Jones," "Every Time You Say Goodbye," "Miles to Go" and the group's version of the Fortunes' "Baby Now That I've Found You." And the Fox crowd was clearly waiting for Tyminski to breaking into Dick Burnett's "Man of Constant Sorrow" from the "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack -- arguably the biggest hit played on Thursday night.

The most striking part of the show was the encore, however, five songs that stripped Krauss and Union Station to their simplest core, performing, unplugged in front of a single microphone and in varying configurations. Krauss, Tyminski and Block played "When You Say Nothing At All" as a trio, while bassist Barry Bales joined on harmonies for "Whiskey Lullaby" and an a capella "Down to the River to Pray."

"Your Long Journey," with Douglas back, was Krauss' sole nod to her Grammy Award-winning "Raising Sand" collaboration with Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant," while "There Is a Reason" closed things on a high if slightly melancholy note. Despite what Krauss told the crowd, it's fair to say just about everyone left the Fox feeling more than pretty good.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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