- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 29, 2005

Alison Krauss has earned a reputation for essaying some of the saddest tunes in Nashville since George Jones, but no one has more fun onstage poking holes in that image than the bluegrass queen herself.

Miss Krauss and Union Station, touring in support of last year’s dark “Lonely Runs Both Ways,” leavened the tearjerkers from that album during Saturday’s concert at Columbia’s Merriweather Post Pavilion with some deliriously hot picking from dobro master Jerry Douglas and some between-song patter goofy enough to make Lyle Lovett blush.

Mr. Douglas, a former member of The Country Gentleman, the District’s legendary bluegrass band from the ‘60s and ‘70s, electrified the crowd with a blazing three-song instrumental solo set about halfway through the show, inspiring his bandleader to call him the “greatest dobro player ever.” Miss Krauss — who also weighed in on goose hunting, Funyuns, hair-care products, stretchy underwear and old Michael McDonald records between sending shivers down listeners’ spines with songs like “Gravity” and ” Restless” from the “Lonely” LP — also led the house in a rendition of “Happy Birthday,” complete with an on-stage candle-lit cake for Mr. Douglas.

The giggle-prone singer also told the audience about discovering a chestnut written by Mr. McDonald, the former Doobie Brothers frontman, on an old album in a used record store in Nashville. She suspected she had something when she saw the song title: “It Don’t Matter Now.” A quick listen, she said, revealed that the song was indeed, “sad and pitiful.” She smiled and added, “So we recorded it.” She gave the crowd her own soulful (natch) version of the McDonald weeper, followed by the equally gloomy (and just as achingly beautiful) “Forget About It,” and her own big hit, “When You Say Nothing at All.”

The pipes of this Illinois native, whose career got a big boost a few years ago when she and band mate Dan Tyminski were featured in “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” are clearly the standouts of this show, but the girl can play a mean fiddle, too, adding a deep poignancy to her own songs and more than holding her own while trading solos during the cow-jazz instrumentals.

She also isn’t afraid to play second-fiddle, figuratively speaking, as she does when Mr. Tyminski steps to the forefront to perform his monster hit, “Man of Constant Sorrow,” the song George Clooney lip-synched in the 2000 Coen brothers film.

Mr. Tyminski’s distinctive singing — high and crackling with a kind of retro 78-rpm energy — couldn’t be more different from Miss Krauss’ clear-throated style, but the two voices give the band a unique breadth of appeal.

“Rain,” like most of the songs Miss Krauss and Mr. Tyminski offered up, emphasized the “blue” in bluegrass, but there was nothing cool about their set; a show packed with hot licks that was warmly received by an energetic and appreciative crowd.

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