Alison Krauss & Union Station – The Backyard (Austin, TX)
Maybe it’s the harmonies. Maybe it’s the seemingly effortless picking by some of the best players in country music. Maybe it’s the beautiful high soprano, or maybe it’s the excellent repertoire. Maybe it’s all that and more.
Alison Krauss & Union Station kicked off this show in high speed with a couple of rousing bluegrass standards, then proceeded to launch directly into “Now That I’ve Found You”, the title track from the collection of songs that earned her a ton of country music honors and a couple million in record sales last year. This was the last show of the band’s 1996 tour, and it was full of spark, energy and good fun based on solid musicianship and pure talent.
Bluegrass shows are traditionally family-oriented, or at least family-friendly, affairs; middle-class folks from the ‘burbs can take their parents and their kids. This show was a decidedly wholesome event, but decidedly exciting at the same time; up to this point, those two concepts had been mutually exclusive in my mind. I walked in thinking I’d get some impressive picking, a lot of old standards, and maybe a grin or two. Krauss delivered all that and more: There was a real emotional depth to the material she and her band put forth, and while none of the selections themselves were surprising to me, the weight that they carried was.
The first time I heard “She’s Got” by the True Believers, it was a musical revelation for me; I realized for the first time that “come on, come on, come on” could carry as much emotional impact as anything Bob Dylan or Townes Van Zandt ever wrote. It was as much about the way the words were presented as what they said. That’s what was so good, and so surprising, about the performance of Krauss and Union Station: They packed an unexpected punch that left me reeling for the rest of the evening.