SoundStage! Music Online Editor's Pick Archives
November/December 2002

Alison Krauss + Union Station - Live
Rounder 11661, 2002

Musical Performance
****
Recording Quality

***

Overall Enjoyment
****

Alison Krauss and Union Station are hot commodities following their work on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack and companion Down from the Mountain concert. How hot? Live has been advertised on TV, and a multichannel DVD-V is in the works. But don't let the perceived hype deter you from buying this wonderful two-CD set recorded live at Austin City Limits. Krauss' clear, delicate voice is in perfect form, and the band smokes. While those who have come to this music via O Brother will be happy to know that "A Man of Constant Sorrow" and "Down to the River to Pray" are here, I enjoyed the traditional "Bright Sunny South" (which Doc Watson does on his great Down South) and "The Boy Who Wouldn't Hoe Corn." Although Krauss' vocals can be a little hot in places, the sound is appealing for its lack of edginess. But I hope the SACD that's sure to come will improve on it in terms of spaciousness. No matter -- this is vital music sung and played by a group of artists who have great affection for their music and great insight into their craft....Marc Mickelson


Various Artists - Going Driftless: An Artist's Tribute to Greg Brown
Red House Records RHR CD 145, 2002

Musical Performance
****
Recording Quality

***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

I've reviewed a couple of Greg Brown CDs over the past few years, and in my reviews I have tried to convey the profound beauty of Brown's songwriting and performances. This tribute collection culls tunes from older and very recent Brown albums performed only by female artists, with all royalties donated to The Breast Cancer Fund. The list of performers is distinguished and includes Lucinda Williams, Iris Dement, Gillian Welch, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Shawn Colvin, Victoria Williams, and Ani DiFranco, who tackles one of Brown's masterpieces, "The Poet Game," turning it into an almost-eight-minute gem of reinterpretation. Even if you know the original well, you may need a few moments to recognize it here. Other readings are more straightforward, for the good of the songs, such as Lucy Kaplansky's redo of "Small Dark Movie," from Brown's great Further In. And aside from getting to hear familiar songs done in new ways, tribute collections can introduce us to performers we didn't know, as with Robin Lee Berry via her wonderfully earnest interpretation of "Hey Baby Hey," also from Futher In. There is one definite clunker here, from another performer with whom I was not familiar: Ferron and her rendition of "Where is Maria?," which is turned into a rocker la Melissa Etheridge -- and just doesn't work. But there is much to admire about this collection, including clear and detailed sound. I would recommend any of Brown's recent releases as better starting points, but if you already have them, this is a fine way to wait for Brown's next collection and support a worthy cause to boot....Marc Mickelson


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