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Rounder presents
Alison Krauss and Union Station Live (2003)

"This is one of the most beautiful theaters, if not the prettiest, that I think we ever got the chance to play in. It's unbelievable. I especially like the naked people."
- Alison Krauss

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: August 18, 2003

Stars: Alison Krauss
Other Stars: Barry Bales, Dan Tyminski, Jerry Douglas, Ron Block, Larry Atamanuik
Director: Frances Marlborough

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:56m:32s
Release Date: July 15, 2003
UPC: 011661051591
Genre: music

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B+A-A- B

DVD Review

Prior to watching this two-disc set from Rounder, I had only the most casual awareness of the music of Alison Krauss (largely from her appearance on the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack). I knew that she was a moderately popular country singer/fiddler with bluegrass roots, supposedly anchored somewhere to the left of the pop of Dolly and Shania, to the right of the edgy alt-country of Neko Case and Sally Timms. With little else go on but burning musical curiosity, I eagerly plopped down to check out this concert disc of hers, recorded at the inordinately beautiful Louisville Palace in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2002.

Going in cold, I found myself quickly lulled into a pleasantly relaxed state by the lazy, familiar sameness of much of the material, driven by Krauss's ability to genuinely sing; and sing she certainly does, without having to resort to forced stage theatrics or skin-tight belly shirts. The songs did tend to fuse together a bit for me over the nearly two hour concert (afterwards I honestly couldn't recall the difference between The Lucky One and Let Me Touch You For Awhile), and even more familiar moments like The Foundations' Baby, Now That I've Found You, which gets a gentle reworking by Krauss and Union Station, seemed to fit into the well-established low-key slow and twangy groove. That sameness was busted up periodically, such as during the sweetly sad Hugh Prestwood song, Ghost In This House, which featured some mighty fine harmony work by Krauss and stand-up bassist Barry Bales.

The thing that really floored me was her announcement of the fact that her tight five-piece band, Union Station, consisted of four members of the Soggy Bottom Boys, aka the guys who provided much of the music for the foot-stompin' bluegrass revival sound found on O Brother. Nice pedigree, indeed, and while this is likely common knowledge to Krauss-heads, it was impressive news to me, and made moments like guitarist Dan Tyminski's centerpiece of A Man Of Constant Sorrow seem as much like the real thing, as their covering of such traditional bluegrass pieces like Bright Sunny South and Cluck Old Hen. And when Krauss fiddles, it's not with the flashy "look at me" spotlight-hogging of a Doug Kershaw, but it serves more as a subtle accents behind the driving dobro playing of Jerry Douglas or Ron Block's flaming banjo riffs.

Set List:

Let Me Touch You For Awhile
Choctaw Hayride
The Lucky One
Baby, Now That I've Found You
Bright Sunny South
Every Time You Say Goodbye
Tiny Broken Heart
Cluck Old Hen
Ghost In This House
Forget About It
Faraway Land
A Tribute To Peador O'Donnell/Monkey Let The Hogs Out
The Boy Who Wouldn't Hoe Corn
Take Me For Longing
I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow
We Hide & Seek
But You Know I Love You
When You Say Nothing At All
New Favorite
Oh, Atlanta

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Rounder has issued this set in a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, (though only the concert performance, found on disc one, is actually in widescreen). Filmed in high-definition, the transfer is truly beautiful to look at, awash in deep, luxurious blacks and bright, vivid colors. Image detail is first rate, from the heavy red curtain that hangs behind the band to the close-ups of the various instruments during solos, and the whole presentation is just about perfect. I noticed some infrequent moments of edge enhancement, but not enough to detract from the overall image transfer. There are no nicks or scratches are to be found on this smart looking two-disc set.

Solid job, Rounder.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The audio transfer is on par with the video, with the two principle listening options provided in either Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS. Both tracks make use of the rear channels for not just audience reactions, but for sporadic bits of instrumentation, as well; this really fills out the soundstage without coming across too gimmicky, and the effect is warm and pleasing. The clarity and separation of both the 5.1 and DTS is excellent, and it is possible to make out nearly every finger slide across the fret board. In going back and forth between the two tracks, I found the DTS to have richer .LFE, which made things seem more lifelike, but the difference between the two is marginal, at best. Both are quite good.

A decent-sounding, but far less expansive, PCM stereo track is also available.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 23 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 23 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
9 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Nexpak
Picture Disc
2 Discs
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Music video
Extras Review: Disc Two is relegated to hold the supplements, and hardcore fans of Krauss and Union Station should appreciate them (though I doubt anyone else would take the time to sit through all of them). Each band member gets their own separate interview segment, culminating in them all getting together to answer fan questions. The interviews, featuring a mix of old photos and concert footage, give each individual player the chance to talk about their roots, childhood, and the like. The segments, and their runtimes, are:
Jerry Douglas (09m:51s)
Alison Krauss (12m:59s)
Barry Bales (07m:14s)
Dan Tyminski (06m:21s)
Ron Block (09m:35s)
Larry Atamanuik (05m:05s)
The Band (06m:15s)

Also included is On the Road (11m:52s), a choppy collection of behind-the-scenes tour footage, showing the band on the bus, eating and warming up. Again, fans will probably dig it, while others will probably opt for the "been there, done that" approach. A Tribute to Frank Edmonson (04m:30s) is a video memorial, set to one of Krauss's songs, for Edmonson, who passed away in November 2002. Based on the footage, it seems he was possibly the band's tour manager, and this montage is nicely done, though it is never really explained who he was. Wrapping things up is a discography and the music video for New Favorite (03m:51s), where Krauss slinks through the woods and discovers that her lover has replaced her.

The disc is cut into 23 chapters (one per song).

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

I was thoroughly entertained by this concert disc, even if a lot of the material tended to sound the same to my non-Krauss-familiar ears. Krauss and Union Station perform very well, and their mix of good ol' mountain music, layered with a bit of pop accessibility, is extremely pleasing.

Rounder has done an excellent job on the image and audio transfers (even to the point of moving the supplements to a second disc), which made the experience that much more enjoyable.



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