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Krauss and Union Station Make Tour Stop in Berkeley
Spectrum contributing writer
When Alison Krauss boldly put a new spin on bluegrass by blending
country, folk, blues and even pop to the traditional roots of Appalachian
music, she had no idea it would lead her down a path of mainstream
country and pop heights. This approach – formerly unheard of
with bluegrass artists – places her signature sound at the forefront
of its genre today.
“We’re not making dance music,” says the 33-year-old Krauss. “Sometimes
I can’t believe we’ve gotten played on the radio at all, but I’ve
got no complaints.”
Now, with 17 Grammy awards safely tucked away, (one more than Aretha Franklin
and the most won by any female artist), the talented singer/violinist/producer
and her band, will make their way to Berkeley Saturday on their “Lonely
Runs Both Ways 2005 Tour.”
Alison Krauss and Union Station will set an uplifting tone with their enchanting,
rich nugrass sound – a modern version of contemporary bluegrass — when
they grace the stage of the Berkeley Community Theatre and perform songs off
Lonely Runs Both Ways, their first studio album in three years.
The new CD, better known as “the Heartbreak album,” holds well to
her tastes in choosing a caliber of heartrending songs. “I did find enough
sad songs for the album,” says Krauss laughing, well aware of her reputation. “When
we make a record, we get the songs together that I like, and we do them how they
should be done – I don’t let anything else sway me.”
One song, co-written by Krauss that dates back to her teens, is even titled,
appropriately, “This Sad Song,” which she reluctantly released after
much coaxing from her band mates.
“We made that up in the back of a van when I was 17,” says Krauss. “The
guys have wanted to record it forever, but I said no and really fought to not
have it on the record – but I guess it’s OK if nobody listens to
the lyrics closely.”
Krauss’s soul-stirring soprano vocals will hypnotize, even when she bellows
out a sound as clear as a train’s whistle that achingly echoes through
the empty mountain valleys, while lyrically weaving picturesque stories of falling
in love as well as the tristesse and void that accompanies lost love.
The first half of the show will include a run-through of tunes off the new album,
including “Restless,” the first release and a No. 1 on the Billboard
charts, “Gravity,” and “Goodbye Is All We Have.”
During the second half, “You Will Be My Ain True Love,” from the
movie “Cold Mountain,” cuts off its companion album Down From The
Mountain, and “River to Pray” from the multi-million selling soundtrack
O Brother, Where Art Thou? will be featured.
Other highlights will include a solo performed by guitarist Dan Tyminski as he
takes the lead vocals on “Man of Constant Sorrow,” from O Brother,
and a special jam session, with bluegrass pickin’ at its finest, as these
seasoned musicians, including Barry Bales on bass/vocals, Ron Block on banjo/guitar/vocals,
and master of dobro himself, Jerry Douglas, reveal their flavorful, progressive
touch to the old time deeply-rooted-in-the-hills-of-the-South music.
Fan-favorite ballads such as “When You Say Nothing At All,” and “The
Lucky One,” (a Grammy winner for Best Country Song), will also be highlighted.
The carefully crafted nugrass songs that have readily raced up the radio charts
have sold over seven million to date – an unexpectedly high amount for
a bluegrass artist.
However, some of the popularity has drawn criticism from some bluegrass purists
that view the band’s alt-country/bluegrass milieu’s mass appeal as
undermining the credibility of bluegrass roots.
The non-conforming Krauss disagrees.
“Sometimes it makes people angry when we do something that is really far
from bluegrass. They say, ‘You know, they’re misrepresenting bluegrass,’” says
Krauss. “Well, if we’re holding ourselves back from doing what we
want to do, we’re misrepresenting ourselves.
“It’s not that I don’t think, ‘Oh we’re going to
get nailed for that one,’ because I think about that too, but the people
that I want to impress are those guys I play with every night,” Krauss
says. “If the band likes it, then I’m satisfied – If they’re
happy with it, it makes me feel good.”
Recognized by the industry and to her fans as a non-purist, Krauss is known to
perform songs by the Beatles and has even recorded Bad Company’s “Oh,
Atlanta,” and the Allman Brothers’ “Midnight Runner.”
“I love hard singing,” Krauss says. “That’s why my favorites
are Paul Rodgers from Bad Company, Free, and Lou Gramm from Foreigner. Power,
hard singing is great and has just so much soul. It’s the same type of
singing as (bluegrass pioneer) Ralph Stanley, if you ask me.”
Krauss also taps bands like Def Leppard, AC/DC and Aerosmith, as part of her
musical upbringing, along with bluegrass.
Raised by a psychologist father and an illustrator mother in Champaigne, Illinois,
Krauss began playing violin at her mother’s urging. “My mom and dad
wanted to put my brother and I in everything – art classes, sports. One
of these things we were going to do is take an instrument for five years, and
she chose the violin for me because my brother had the piano already. They bought
me a book, and I listened to records. I made a tape of whatever song I wanted
to learn and would play it 35 times.”
The playing paid off and in no time Krauss was winning top-tiered trophies at
bluegrass fiddle contests. At the tender age of 12, she joined her first bluegrass
group and at 16, released Too Late to Cry, her first album on her still current
label, Rounder Records.
Since embarking on her musical journey, she’s racked up a room full of
trophies, including Country Music Association awards, a half-dozen International
Bluegrass Music Association awards and in 1993, she was inducted into the Grand
Ole Opry, marking her the first bluegrass artist in 29 years to receive the honor.
Krauss has performed with Shania Twain, Alan Jackson, Vince Gill, Phish, Dolly
Parton and most recently enjoyed a No. 1 hit with country crooner Brad Paisley
for “Whiskey Lullabye,” which garnered them each two Country Music
The busy mom to her five-year-old son, Sam, has been highly visible on the radar
of the entertainment media spotlight, coming off a year packed with live performances
at the Golden Globes, Oscars, Grammys, and late night television shows, resulting
in her reaching over 100 million viewers.
However, Krauss doesn’t let fame sway her and prefers the simplicity of
playing in smaller, cozier venues, such as the Berkeley Community Theatre. “We
don’t really do that (referring to big production stage shows). “We
just play music,” says Krauss. “That’s really what I want – to
make records, and to go out and play good songs. And I want to play’em
in places where I can hear my band and where I can hear myself.
“That’s just the ultimate to me.”
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Metropolitan News Company, Inc.