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We probably weren’t alone in feeling a little indifferent Saturday leading up to the Alison Krauss and Union Station show at Alltel Arena.
We’d seen them before, and we’d also seen the incomparable dobro-playing Jerry Douglas performing away from his AKUS gig at Mountain View last year. Krauss’ public relations firm, for which she’s apparently paying way more than she’s getting, didn’t do anything in terms of promotional help for us or the daily down the street considering AKUS had postponed twice here since March. We started feeling that, outside of Alltel Arena’s people, nobody much cared.
Skipping the show for a movie was briefly contemplated as I and Mrs. Entertainment left our new favorite restaurant, Ed David’s Deep South-meets-Southwest Bubba and Garcia’s for the rest of the evening.
Since tickets were waiting, however, we chose Alison, and after a two-hour show of impeccable instrumentation and some of the most gorgeous singing and harmonizing you could ever hear, we were glad of it. We learned more about Krauss than we ever could in any interview, and we didn’t encounter anyone leaving who didn’t enjoy the concert.
It was pretty obvious early in the show that the band was wary of what the crowd’s reaction to them would be, too, having ducked two shows. We’re tied with Savannah, Ga., for the most AKUS postponements, Alison joked. We didn’t want her coughing up a lung on us last time, she assured. Apologies were issued all around.
The more Krauss talked, the more fun-yet-flighty she sounded. In putting some breaks in between the mix of bluegrass and country, Krauss introduced and interviewed each band member. We learned that bassist Barry Bales discovered duck hunting for the first time in Carlisle, driving half a day from his East Tennessee home, and he’s been hooked ever since. Mandolin and guitar player Dan Tyminski, whose singing voice was dubbed over George Clooney’s in “O Brother, Where Art Thou,” told us he’d learned his wife’s fantasy was Dan’s voice coming out of George’s face.
It was easy to spot Douglas’ instrumental greatness even in the midst of rest of the band’s playing, but he also got his own 10-minute instrumental medley covering rocking country and blues. We learned that guitarist and banjoist Ron Block has a catalog of great songs, and the band proved it on his “A Living Prayer” as its closing encore, following up the “O Brother” hymn, “Down to the River to Pray.” We learned, as Alison took off on tangents while telling another story about herself, of her admiration for Crystal Gayle and Michael McDonald.
She and the band put a great spin on the Foundation’s oldies classic “You Don’t Need Me” and rocked on a regular-set closing “Oh, Atlanta.” Earlier she brought pause to the crowd with a touching rendition of “When You Say Nothing at All,” the Ronan Keating song used in the film “Notting Hill.”
“That’s for giving us that great song,” a fan a few rows behind us said. We couldn’t have said it better, for that and many others Saturday.
Great songs were in abundance Thursday at Juanita’s when Cracker’s David Lowery and Johnny Hickman performed what was dubbed an “unplugged” show. You can’t keep Hickman unplugged, though, and he has electric guitar doing tricks. Again, whether performed with a four-piece band or in a slower style, you’re going to know a great song, and the witty “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)” is that. So is “Low.” And Hickman’s yearning on “Another Song About the Rain.”
Hickman has a solo album out with more witty lyrics such as on “The San Bernadino Boy.” And Hickman confessed to being a wannabe stalker of Lowery’s earlier band, Camper Van Beethoven, and they trotted out a few Camper tunes that will never sound dated to us, such as “Take the Skinheads Bowling” and “Sad Lover’s Waltz.”