Alison Krauss's First Live Album
The good news is that playing before an audience, Alison Krauss and her crack back-up band Union Station can replicate the Bluegrass/pop fireworks—instrumentally and vocally—that they set off in the studio. That’s the bad news too, as whatever interplay there was between the group and the audience has been excised, and the arrangements and performances shed little new light on the mostly familiar tunes. That’s just fine by the fans, judging by the raucous, appreciative audience reaction at this concert, recorded at the Louisville Palace, in Louisville Kentucky, April 29th and 30th, 2002 while the group toured in support of New Favorite (Rounder 11661-0485 hybrid multi-channel SACD/Diverse Vinyl DIV001LP 180g LP). The fans at home obviously approved as well, as the album quickly went Platinum. One track, the familiar “Down to the River to Pray,” was recorded live on the “Austin City Limits” television program.
That said, this superbly recorded 25 tune, 2 disc hybrid multi-channel SACD will both appeal to old fans and serve as a comprehensive introduction for those unfamiliar with Krauss’s easy brand of mountain music. Krauss’s fiddle playing is as firey and accomplished live as it is in the studio, and her coy vocals, as coolly sexy and intimate in front of a crowd as they are in an isolation booth, rightly drive some audience members absolutely crazy.
The second disc opens with Dobro master Jerry Douglas stretching out solo on Donal Lunny’s gorgeous “A Tribute to Peador O’Connell” and his own “Monkey let the Hogs Out.” The group’s live version of “A Man of Constant Sorrow” sounds just like the studio version and whatever version was used in the movie “O Brother, Where Art Though,” the soundtrack album of which was a Grammy Award winner and best seller and which was subsequently issued on a swell sounding 2 LP Lost Highway vinyl edition (088-170 069-1).
Engineer Gary Paczosa opts for close miking on the instruments while allowing (or unable to prevent) some P.A. system bleed-through on Krauss’s voice, which gives it a slightly bright and diffuse, though not at all objectionable cast. That, the applause and some gorgeous room sound are the only indications you’ll have that his was a live recording. The 5.1 channel mix adds the space in three dimensions and gives the set even greater realism. A nice package that will get you caught up with Krauss in a hurry, but if you have her other albums, it’s probably superfluous—unless you’re a big fan. A DVD-V of the concert is also available.