Alison Krauss and Union Station set up shop at Nashville’s revered Ryman Auditorium for a two-night stand Friday and Saturday, Aug. 26 and 27. It was an evening showcasing all bluegrass’s finest points, crisscrossing from smooth and contemporary, to deep-rooted traditionalism.
Krauss and longtime bandmates Barry Bales, Ron Block, Jerry Douglas and Dan Tyminski offered a set of fans’ most-loved songs laced with newer material. Touring in support of their first new album in seven years, they fittingly opened the Saturday evening concert with the project’s title track, “Paper Airplane.”
The acclaimed musicianship of the group tallies up to a sum greater than its parts. Driven partly by Block’s rollicking banjo, the evening’s uptempo pace never grew sleepy, even on the ballads. Throughout the night, Krauss’s celebrated fiddle-playing balanced her soaring, delicate vocals.
A video panel changed with the mood, showing colors and scenery from cityscapes to countryside as the group offered well-known songs “Let Me Touch You For A While,” “Ghost In This House” and “Baby, Now That I’ve Found You.”
It’s remarkable how Krauss and Union Station manage to make bluegrass so welcoming—exciting even—for genre outsiders. While the set included more accessible songs like “Whiskey Lullaby,” originally recorded by Brad Paisley and Krauss, it shined equally on genre basics, particularly when Dobro master Douglas took the stage alone for a mid-show breakdown. Tyminski’s deep, powerful vocals—a fitting complement to Krauss’s soprano—steered the sound into deep bluegrass territory several times, offering “Rain Please Go Away,” and “Dust Bowl Children.”
Krauss noted that in attendance that night were four of the songwriters behind the band’s cuts over the last 20-plus years: Robert Lee Castleman, John Pennell, Sidney Cox of the Cox Family, and, of course, Union Station’s own Ron Block.
Krauss also used the opportunity to highlight a newer writer on the scene—inviting songstress Angel Snow to open the two-night series. Snow, together with songwriter/musician Viktor Krauss, penned “Lie Awake” and two other songs recorded by Union Station for the deluxe edition of the band’s newest release.
At the Ryman, Viktor backed Snow onstage for an acoustic set that ranged from sunny toe-tapper “Stay Away” to moving ballad “These Days,” one of the songs recorded by Union Station.
Snow pleased longtime followers with her older solo-writes “Coals And Water,” and “Holiday.” She also offered new material, written with Viktor, such as the groove laden “As You Are.” He is producing her upcoming release, due this November.
Near the end of the evening Krauss and Union Station gathered around the center mic for “Down To The River To Pray” and a few other songs, in a soulful closing moment showcasing the band’s talent and harmonies.
Douglas says his favorite part of being on the road with Alison is that she sings the band to sleep every night. And who wouldn’t enjoy that?