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New Favorite- Alison Krauss and Union Station

For years. Alison Krauss and Union Station gathered critical praise and
Grammy awards, igniting a mainstream interest in their version of bluegrass.
Then, the members contributed nine tracks to the soundtrack for the Coen
Brothers’ film "O Brother Where Art Thou?"
As the singing voice for George Clooney, Union Station’s Dan Tyminski
obtained the highest profile. His rendition of Man of Constant Sorrow
became a hit and helped the album achieve multi-platinum sales. A couple of
hastily put together concerts featuring the artists on the soundtrack were
rousing celebrations not just of bluegrass’ history but also of roots
music’s
current crop of artists.
Buoyed by that success, Krauss and Union Station latest release, "New
Favorite," is obviously met with avid interest. The album title offers a
playful take on a fan’s acceptance of the group’s newest recording. Based on
the photographs on the cover and accompanying insert, it’s a reference to a
dining establishment that Krauss and Union Station could have come upon
during
their many days on the concert trail. There is even the idea that it refers
to the opinion of the band members towards these 13 songs or…
What I’m getting at is that there is a depth that can be found in the
title. The same goes for the music spread out over 45 minutes. There is a
constantly shifting give-and-take between the Krauss-led tunes versus the
ones sung by Tyminski. Her soft voice evokes thoughts of Shawn Colvin minus
some of the wariness and weariness. She sounds reflective, almost to the
point of shyness but the overall impression is someone who gallantly moves
forward no matter what the situation brings to her.
Krauss’s songs have a breezy feel to them that are never spoiled by
becoming too polished. Still, they do have more in common with pop or New
Folk’s adult contemporary affiliation than bluegrass. She receives solid
support from her band mates in the same manner that a good friend is present
as an emotional crutch. That thought becomes evident as one travels from the
opening track, Let Me Touch You For Awhile to the its final one, the
album’s title track, which relays in hushed tones the loss of a lover to
someone else.
On the other hand, guitarist/vocalist Tyminski and the rest of Union
Station – Jerry Douglas on dobro, Barry Bales on acoustic bass and Ron Block
on guitar and banjo – generally perk up the proceedings with lively and more
traditional arrangements (i.e. the instrumental Choctaw Hayride,
which was
written by Douglas). Krauss doesn’t just sit to the side during these
moments. She contributes fiddle and viola throughout the record.

Overall, Krauss and Union Station’s contemporary approach of bluegrass
gives the music enough of a lush production that the triple-A radio format
crowd can embrace it. It’s not the energetic, spontaneous sounds one can
find
among the genre’s early practitioners. Instead, it moves with a grace of
vision.
And while many of those making country music today blur the lines between
pop and country in a manner that’s packaged like a Sara Lee pastry, Krauss
and
Union Station sustain a wholesome charm about themselves and their music.
And
in the process they, indeed, do create a new favorite.

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