Alison Krauss + Union Station
Vocalist and fiddle player Krauss gets top billing with her bluegrass combo, but these days, she’s not the only star in the band. Thanks to the runaway success of the O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack, guitarist Dan Tyminski is also getting his share of attention. He provided the high, lonesome singing voice for George Clooney in the film. And on New Favorite, Tyminski does get his share of vocal showcases including the traditional acoustic blues “The Boy Who Couldn’t Hoe Corn” and a pair of O Brother-style mountain music workouts, “Momma Cried” and “Bright Sunny South.”
But early on the record, it becomes obvious that the real star of Union Station is dobro virtuoso Jerry Douglas. His flowing, remarkable leads twist around Krauss’ pretty vocals on tracks like the Robert Lee Castleman-penned “The Lucky One” and “Let Me Touch You For Awhile.” Unfortunately, not even Douglas can rescue drek like soft rock schlockmeister Dan Fogelberg’s “Stars” (he recorded a bluegrass album back in 1972).
Elsewhere, Ron Block’s finger-picked guitar adds a nice touch to “Daylight” with one of Krauss’ most evocative vocals. Block gets a vocal of his own on “It All Comes Down to You.” Krauss’ soprano vocals bear a resemblance to Emmylou Harris on “Crazy Faith” and she also takes a nice viola solo on the track. “I’m Gone” is a delicate ballad with some interesting melodic turns. But the highlight here is the lovely Gillian Welch-David Rawlings-penned title track. Surprisingly (knowing their recorded output) it’s not a hypnotic, old-timey murder ballad. Instead, the song is a thoroughly modern-sounding, ethereal, muted electric guitar track with Krauss’ best vocal performance and some subtle backing from Douglas. New Favorite is an eclectic and winning collection from a very talented band.
Rounder Records, 1 Camp St., Cambridge, MA 02140; http://www.rounder.com