There’s something Apollonian, something so clear, harmonious and restrained, about the genre-bridging music of Alison Krauss & Union Station that it’s a wonder it could have sprung from an idiom as unvarnished and earthy as bluegrass.
Three of the songs on the group’s first album in seven years hark back to those roots. All three of them, including a high lonesome remake of Peter Rowan’s “Dust Bowl Children,” are sung by guitar and mandolin player Dan Tyminski. The rest of the record’s 11 tracks feature Krauss on lead vocals, but only the instrumentation, especially the quicksilver call-and-response between Jerry Douglas’s Dobro and Krauss’s fiddle, really hints at the group’s down-home roots.
None of that makes these remaining, subtly filigreed performances any less gorgeous. The title track is an introspective acoustic ballad akin to those on Rosanne Cash’s 1990 post-Nashville classic, “Interiors.” “Lie Awake” has a melody as haunting as Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” while “Sinking Stone” is buoyed by an aching chorus, and “My Love Follows You Where You Go” is impelled by a rolling banjo run as steadfast as the pledge of fidelity professed in its lyrics.
The most sublime performances here, though, are easily Krauss’s crepuscular readings of Richard and Linda Thompson’s “Dimming of the Day” and Jackson Browne’s “My Opening Farewell.” Both songs are inspired choices, especially for Krauss’s ethereal soprano, an instrument that possesses the uncanny knack for being both unbearably light and able to convey such gravitas and such deep wells of emotion.
“Dimming of the Day,” “Dust Bowl Children,” “My Opening Farewell”