March 2005

Alison Krauss and Union Station - Loneliness Runs Both Ways
Rounder 11661-0525-2A
Format: CD
Released: 2004

by David J. Cantor

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

Musical ability, confidence, and discriminating taste in repertoire-building come to mind when I think of Alison Krauss and Union Station, as they did when I heard the group's recent CD, Loneliness Runs Both Ways. I also find charming the diminutive Krauss’s power of voice and fiddle, a stereotype-defying talent on stage or camera. It is a stance which the band members, who accompany rather than gang up on her, obviously "get" as well.

They bring back "This Sad Song," a tune Krauss co-wrote with Alison Brown in the early days, which they have long performed live. Dan Tyminski sings a solid lead on this and also on Woody Guthrie’s "Pastures of Plenty." This is a welcome departure from the group’s usual love and loss themes, convincing me they’d do well to up the ratio of bleeding-heart to aching-heart songs. Dwelling on the micro becomes passť with all the macro happening.

This band has perfect casting. I like Jerry Douglas’s Dobro playing and its crisp sound, starting with his solos that dramatize the plaintiveness of "Gravity," the opening track. Larry Atamanuik on drums and Barry Bailes on bass make up one of acoustic music’s greatest rhythm sections. And Ron Block pens excellent songs.

In addition to the Guthrie cover, the group reaches back for Del McCroury’s "Rain Please Go Away" and out for Gillian Welch and David Rawlings’ "Wouldn’t Be So Bad," both very pleasing and both decidedly in the aching- rather than bleeding-heart column. The mix of tempos and lead voices makes the disc a studio version of a good bluegrass concert -- but with fine studio sound.