Alison Krauss brings unique brand of bluegrass to Kiva

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Alison Krauss and Union Station, featuring Jerry Douglas, brought their unique brand of bluegrass to the Kiva Auditorium Wednesday as a stop along their Paper Airplane tour.

Krauss, a singer, songwriter and fiddler who has been recording music since the age of 14, filled the theatre with her signature voice — melodic and mournful — captivating the audience with her incredible vocal range and pensive lyrics.

According to the group's website, "On 'Paper Airplane,' (Krauss) and the band somehow managed to plumb the depths of Krauss' own psyche while also capturing the zeitgeist, so that this portrait of the artist doubles as a portrait of America as a whole at a crucial moment in its history."

The tone of the first half of the show was thick with bitter-sweet emotion and poetic appeal, with songs such as "Paper Airplane," whose lyrics begin, "I've put it all behind me/ nothing left to do or doubt/ Some may say/ But every silver lining always seems to have a cloud/ That comes my way/ Anticipated pleasure or unexpected pain/ No choice I fear/ And love is hard to measure, hidden in the rain…"

Krauss delivers her songs, fiddle in hand, with conviction and grace, evoking the heart-wrenching beauty of some of life's most trying moments. But just as easily, Krauss was able to make the audience laugh with her candid humor.

"People ask us why we only sing sad songs," she joked to the audience in a dry, mischievous voice. "And we finally figured out that it's because we are sad, miserable people who don't want anyone to feel good when they listen to us."

Her moments of comic relief served to keep the tone of the show balanced, and at one point, she asked an audience member what his favorite sad thing in their most sad song was.

He responded saying it was when the girl was strangled, to which Krauss and her bandmates debated whether the man was wrapping his arms around the neck of the girl in the song because he was strangling her or because he needed help.

She then introduced Ron Block, guitar and banjo player, saying that when you see him get his banjo, you know that you're just inches away from a party.

From there the group transitioned into more upbeat bluegrass numbers, with Dan Tyminski contributing vocals on songs such as "Man of Constant Sorrow" and "Dustbowl Children," for a foot taping, head nodding good time.

While definitely upbeat and rife with first-class banjo picking, the songs in the second half of the show remained true to the genius of bluegrass form — full of darkness, despair and disaster disguised in a feel-good beat.

The lyrics of "Dustbowl Children" begin, "My father's name was Hannibal, Mama was Hanna-Mariah/ Everything we owned got all burned up in the great depression fire/ Strip mines and one crop farming drained the green earth dry/ We lost it all till only love was left, and the one thing money can't buy…"

Jerry Douglas also performed two solo numbers on the dobro, an instrument similar to a guitar that Krauss called the "shiniest instrument on earth" as Douglas lifted it to reflect a blinding light.

The show was brought to town by AMP Concerts, an Albuquerque company that puts on a selection of shows throughout the year ranging from a free monthly series at the Albuquerque public libraries to bigger shows such as this.


-- Email the author at udavila@news-bulletin.com.