Peter Hund penned this review.
This is a natural time for Krauss and the boys to put out their first live album. After 15 years of paying her dues (five group albums, three solo releases and a collaboration with the Cox Family), the bluegrass diva neatly wraps it all up in a double-disc package culled from two nights at the Palace Theater in Louisville, Kentucky.
It’s the fifth consecutive gold record for the group’s leader, and a shoo-in for platinum status. Bluegrass already had been enjoying a renaissance, with the 31-year-old singer/fiddler and her bandmates doing their share to win new converts to the genre throughout the 1990s. Then, after the success of the 2000 film O Brother, Where Art Thou? and its record-breaking soundtrack, things got even better.
Aiding and abetting the former child prodigy in her crusade to deliver some “real” country music to the masses are Ron Block, Barry Bales, Jerry Douglas, Dan Tyminski and, on select tracks, Larry Atamanuik.
Block, on banjo, tempers precision with an improvisational feel and an articulation indicating more than a passing knowledge of blues and rock. Bass player Bales has been on albums by everyone from Clint Black to Vince Gill to Reba McEntire to Dolly Parton. Douglas, of course, is dobroist par excellence. Mandolinist/guitarist/vocalist Tyminski, who left one great outfit (Lonesome River Band) to join another, has his finger squarely on the pulse of contemporary bluegrass and knows how to blend it with the traditional. And some may remember Atamanuik, who has evolved into a “bluegrass drummer” (purists, take cover), from his days with Peter Rowan and Richard Greene in Seatrain (without a doubt the only California-based bluegrass-rock fusion group produced by George Martin).
Over the course of the 25 songs here, there are more than a few non-Krauss-vocal numbers, so fans of her singing be warned. But the instrumentals and the songs with Tyminski singing lead break things up nicely, reiterating that this is a group — not just an angelic singer and her crack backup band. As they said in a recent interview, this is just the beginning and everything until now has felt like training camp.
Talk about a wonderfully scary thought!